Closing Shop

March 1, 2007

Do you have any information or checklists that might be helpful as we close a practice? I want to be sure we cover all of our bases regarding patient records, legal concerns, and so on.

Question: Do you have any information or checklists that might be helpful as we close a practice? I want to be sure we cover all of our bases regarding patient records, legal concerns, and so on.

Answer: I am very sorry to hear this news. Take a look at the checklist the Texas Medical Association offers. Here are some other standard considerations:

To close, you need to review all the logistics based on your practice’s situation. For example, what will you do with your building? Do you rent, lease, or own it? If you rent, you need to notify your landlord of your intentions. If you own, do you plan to sell? Find a real estate agent, and start your preparations.

Also determine what you need to do to move your equipment, files, and furniture - and where you will put them. If you lease your equipment, notify your leaser. If you want to sell the equipment you own, find a seller, have a yard sale, put your equipment up for sale on eBay, or find another way to locate a buyer.

Give your staff adequate notification. You’ll want to retain at least one staff member for 30 to 60 days after the close to follow up on your final outstanding accounts. Most physicians find a part-timer for 60 days to be adequate, but it depends upon the volume of your outstanding accounts.

Remember that a physician has an ethical obligation to notify her patients when she moves or closes her practice to allow them to obtain copies of their medical records or have their records transferred to another practice. Ideally, a physician should notify each patient by letter at least 60 days in advance of closing. Often, a physician supplements these letters with a published notice in the local newspaper scheduled to appear on three or more occasions.

The American Medical Association’s Ethics Opinion 7.03, Records of Physicians Upon Retirement or Departure From a Group, states in part: “A patient’s records may be necessary to the patient in the future not only for medical care but also for employment, insurance, litigation, or other reasons. When a physician retires or dies, patients should be notified and urged to find a new physician and should be informed that upon authorization, records will be sent to the new physician. Records which may be of value to a patient and which are not forwarded to a new physician should be retained, either by the treating physician, another physician, or such other person lawfully permitted to act as a custodian of the records.”

Finally, if you have admitting privileges at a hospital - and especially if you take emergency call - you’ll want to give that hospital at least 90 days notice, if not more.