Medical justification letters can serve a variety of purposes, ranging from excusing a one-time absence from work to justifying a patient's need for disability accommodations. It's important that these letters are written clearly and convincingly to convey the medical practitioner's authority. However, medical justification letters should avoid revealing confidential patient information unless the patient specifically authorises the release of this information.
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A medical letter of necessity should start by explaining why the writer has the authority to provide the letter. A good introduction might say something like, "I have been John Smith's physician for the last six months." Employers periodically have to deal with unscrupulous doctors writing letters for patients they hardly know. Convey clearly that you are adequately informed about the medical condition to write an excuse letter.
A good letter will state clearly and succinctly the medical needs of the patient. The letter should only address the medical needs that are relevant to the recipient. For example, a physician writing a letter to an employer does not need to state that the patient will need extra sleep or that the patient should remember to take his medicine. Instead, say something like, "John Smith will require the use of an ergonomic chair to minimise the impact his disability has on his job."
A good letter from a physician should give a specific amount of time that the absence or accommodation is required. If a patient needs time off work because he has had surgery, write something like, " I anticipate the patient will need to take one week absent from work." If you are unsure of the time the patient will need, you can write, "patient will need time off work until further notice is given."
Letterhead and Affiliation
A quality medical justification letter should not be scrawled on notebook or prescription paper. Instead, write the letter on medical letterhead that makes clear your qualifications. You should also include any contact information in case the employer has follow-up questions.
Physicians are subject to strict laws about patient privacy that prevent them from revealing confidential medical information. Consequently, it's important to avoid revealing unnecessary or private information. Employers assume that doctors are experts on a patient's condition and therefore they do not need to know the specific condition or symptoms a patient has. Some medical conditions, particularly mental health issues, require increased attention to privacy. Rather than saying, "Jane Smith suffers from panic attacks and is afraid of working in groups," say something like, "Jane Smith's medical condition requires that she be granted a disability accommodation that does not require her to work in groups."
Occasionally, an employer, teacher, or other administrator may call you to verify the letter or obtain more information. You are not required to answer specific questions about the patient's medical history. In fact, doing so may be illegal. Instead, clarify any questions about absences and necessary accommodations and consult with your patient before supplying any further information.
Especially in cases where a medical letter of justification is used to acquire long-term disability accommodations or permits a patient to be absent from work for an extended period of time, it's important to provide a justification. Explain why the particular accommodation is necessary. For example, "Jane Smith will need to use a sign language interpreter in class in order to understand the lessons" is preferable to, "provide Jane Smith a sign language interpreter."
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