Individuals may be able to request their medical records from the custodian of records. But this process can be difficult.
Regardless of legal requirements, physicians should make it easy for patients to find out about office closures and transfer of records. This can be accomplished by sending letters or posting updates on the physician’s website and social media pages, if applicable.
Patient Notice of Practice Closure
The first thing a physician should do when closing their practice is notify patients. It is strongly recommended that this notification be done a minimum of three months prior to the closing date, so that the patient has ample time to find a new provider and request their medical records.
The letter should provide information about the closing, including a contact person for questions and instructions for requesting records and a timeline for doing so. In addition, the letter should provide a list of local physicians that are accepting new patients, if applicable.
If a physician doesn’t have the time to draft a letter to patients, they can use the same information in a voicemail message for their office phone number and post it on their website or social media pages (if they have any). In either case, the practice should record that attempts were made to contact each patient and record this in the medical records.
Informed Consent Forms
When a medical practice is closing, they must follow state laws regarding retaining records. This includes finding a professional medical records custodian to manage the charts once they are no longer being used by the office.
The process of informed consent requires that a healthcare provider informs patients about the risks, benefits, and alternatives of a procedure or intervention before they agree to undergo it. This information should be provided to the patient in written form, along with an assessment of the patient’s understanding and a statement that the informed consent was received.
When a practice is closing, it is recommended that the office sends letters to patients with a release authorization that gives them access to their medical records. This can be sent out a few months before the closing date and will make it easier for patients to request their chart when the office is closed. This will also help the practice avoid being accused of breaching confidentiality and violating a patient’s privacy rights.
Patient Copies of Medical Records
Depending on state law and case law, patients may be able to access their medical records even when a doctor closes their practice. However, these individuals should request their records from the physician before the closing date.
Typically, a patient will need to complete a form or a letter of authorization to allow someone else to access their medical record information. This includes other doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, insurance companies and billing providers.
When a practice is closing, it is a good idea to hire a custodian of records company that can handle all requests for medical records. These firms can ensure that records are not lost during the closure or transfer, and they will make it easy for patients to access their medical charts when they need them. This will also ease the transition for a retiring physician and his or her staff. They can go on to their next career adventure with peace of mind that the legacy data has been properly managed.
Disposal of Medical Records
While a physician is closing his or her practice, it is imperative to manage the medical records appropriately. This can be done in a number of ways, including transferring the EHRs to another healthcare provider or archiving them with a reputable storage company.
Patients should be notified of the record transfer and storage location. They should also be able to designate a physician or health care provider that can receive copies of the records. Custodial arrangements for storing records are often entered into for a fee and must comply with state laws governing medical records confidentiality, access, disclosure and charges for copies of the records.
Medical practices have varying retention requirements by state, so it’s important to research the specifics of these laws. Working with a legal professional can be helpful for ensuring that all compliance bases are covered. EHR data archiving can be a cost effective option for managing medical records when a medical practice closes.