How Do You Treat VIP Patients?

Medscape Roundtable Discussion: How Do You Treat VIP Patients? If a patient is a "very important person" (VIP), do you treat them differently?

The participants are 3 well-known medical bloggers: Robert Centor, Nicholas Genes, Graham Walker, and Theresa Polick, RN. There are some useful thoughts in the opinion pieces as well as in the open discussion at the end of the article.

I have treated several VIP patients and the most important thing to remember is to provide the usual care without cutting any corners. What often puts VIP patients in trouble is the false feeling that the usual rules do not apply to them, for example, let's take the shortcut and skip that routine chest X-ray prior to procedure x (put your choice of procedure here). This is never a good idea. I have read somewhere the story of a German (or Austrian) king who always insisted be admitted under a false name on a regular floor and not be given any special treatment. He was smart enough to know that was the best way to survive a hospital stay.


How Do You Treat VIP Patients? Medscape Med Students, Roundtable Discussion, 07/17/2007.
Another Medscape roundtable. DB’s Medical Rants, 07/2007.
Image source: Dannyman, Flickr, a Creative Commons license.

Related reading:

Dennis Quaid’s Kids: Are VIPs Safer? Wachter's World, 11/2007.
I’ll take $67 million to go with that, please! Notes from Dr. RW, 02/2008.
From Personhood to Patienthood. Physician turned patient describes himself as P.I.P. - Previously Important Person. OUP, 2012.
Treating celebrity patients not all glitz and glamour. AMNews, 2009.
Caring for VIPs: 9 principles by a Cleveland Clinic team who should know all about it. CCJM, 2011.


  1. When I admit a VIP I always explain to them that they will be treated by a resident. Usually they agree, but once admitted the pressure starts to rise, not only from the patient but family and even colleagues as well.
    It is very hard to adhere to this guideline but I will never give up on it. I explain to them that I am not a accustomed to the daily routine on the ward, I am often away or doing things such as teaching, attending meetings etc.
    Me being their doctor would leed to mistakes.

  2. I have had a VIP patient as a med student but fortunately I had no idea why they were important. The patient graciously put up with me being on my first clerkship rotation, survived bouncing twice to the ICU (not my fault! one was iatrogenic - NG feed into the lung - but I was off for the weekend), and had scores of visitors that had to be ejected in order to ask very personal questions ("didja have a poop today?").

    I'm sure it would be pretty awkward if I thought the patient was as special as everyone else did. I still find it more intimidating treating healthcare professionals.