When a physician closes a practice, there are many steps that must be taken to ensure the proper handling of patient records. These steps can vary by state law and are usually mandated by medical boards.

Write a script that staff can use to notify patients of the closure. Change the office’s voicemail message to include this information.

Patient Records

Whether in paper or electronic form, medical records must be handled properly when a practice closes. Patients need to be made aware that their records have been moved, and physicians should make sure their records can be easily accessed in the future. This includes the ability to transfer them to new physicians or hospitals.

Physicians may need to move their patient records for many reasons. They might merge with a larger practice or health system, they might retire, they might sell their practice, or they could die. In some cases, a health system or large practice will take over the independent doctor’s records.

In other instances, a physician might leave their records with another doctor in some kind of informal agreement. This can backfire, though. For example, if the other physician discards the records or gets tired of storing them, the departing physician could get complaints from their former patients and lose their license. The best arrangement is to have the original records transferred to a commercial storage facility that will guarantee access for both the patient and the new physician.

Employee Records

When a physician closes, or if an independent practice merges with a larger group, it is important for them to make arrangements for the proper disposition of medical records, both in paper and electronic format. State law typically sets minimum requirements for record retention, and there may be contractual obligations that must also be met.

Physicians who close their practices should contact all active patients and provide them with the option to transfer their records to an incoming physician or other healthcare provider of their choice, in compliance with HIPAA regulations. This is an essential step to protect the departing physicians from litigation for breach of contract, as well as other concerns such as noncompetition clauses that could lead to lawsuits based on theft of trade secrets.

It is also a good idea for physicians who are closing their practices to contact any managed care organizations or other healthcare providers they contract with and inform them that the medical records will be available for pick up at a specified date and time. Destroyed records should be documented in a log with patient names and dates of destruction, to prevent any information being improperly accessed or used in litigation.

Business Records

A physician may close or relocate his or her practice for many reasons, including retiring, joining another group, selling the business, or moving out of state. Regardless of the reason for closing or relocating, the practice must comply with federal and state regulations regarding patient records.

State laws typically set medical record retention requirements, and physicians are required to notify patients of closure or relocation. If a physician discards patient records, he or she could face legal liability in case the family members of a deceased patient file a lawsuit for unreleased information or data.

Finding a trusted custodial records company is essential for ensuring that all records are disposed of in compliance with the law and that patients can request their records even after a physician has closed his or her practice. Moreover, a qualified custodian will sort the records by destruction year to prevent unnecessary storage and reduce project costs.

Financial Records

It’s important that a physician in the process of closing a practice clearly notify patients of their options. This notification should include information on where the patient’s records are being stored, how long they will remain accessible, and contact information for future record requests. This information should also be provided in a patient’s electronic medical record.

In addition to advising patients, it’s important to provide written notification to impacted parties including health care systems, HMOs and managed care groups, professional liability insurance carriers and hospitals, state medical and business associations, and regulatory agencies. The goal is to mitigate any potential compliance risks and ensure continuity of care for patients.

It’s a good idea to consult with qualified legal and financial experts for specific guidance throughout the close-up process. This will help ensure that every aspect of a practice closure is completed properly to reduce potential risks for patients and the departing physicians. It will also help protect the physician’s liability and reduce any post-closure litigation risks.

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