Provided by: Jennifer Kirschenbaum, Esq.
What are the legal responsibilities and typical protocol towards ones patients if someone is selling their practice? Is there a time period that they need to notify the patients and must the notification be in writing?
For any doctor selling their practice, there aren't a defined set of rules required to be followed. However, there are certain responsibilities a doctor has in regards to his/her patients that follow during/after the practice sale. For instance, your responsibilities under HIPAA follow you after you’ve closed your doors. Maintenance of patients’ records is a requirement for the full applicable statutory period, which to be careful I recommend you maintain all records for 10 years after closing up shop. Maintaining records can be accomplished in a number of ways – you can simply put them in accessible storage, or a more profitable and easier solution is to sell the custodian rights of those records to another practice (which must be documented in a legal contract transferring liability/responsibility of maintenance, etc.).
Another responsibility that you have is to not “abandon” your patients. To avoid abandonment you are required to provide “proper and adequate notice” to your patients of your intent to stop practicing and ensure your patients are able to secure another doctor to replace you. Again, I recommend looking into a custodianship arrangement with a local practitioner in your specialty to transfer your records to; this way when you provide your patients with “adequate notice” of your intention to close your doors you are passing along access to the patient records and providing a qualified replacement to take over patient care.
I recommend any notice to patients be in writing and clearly state when you will no longer be practicing, how the patient may access their medical record in the future and potentially refer practitioners in the area in the same specialty to evidence you are trying to prevent patient abandonment.
For additional information on this topic, contact Jennifer Kirschenbaum at (516)-747-6700 ext. 302 or at Jennifer@Kirschenbaumesq.com.
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