Q: I will be retiring soon. What should I keep in mind, liability-wise, about closing my practice?
A: Risk management experts have several suggestions for you or any physician to employ when closing or retiring from a practice. From a malpractice standpoint, your most important responsibilities are to:
- Notify your patients in advance to provide for continuity of care and avoid potential abandonment claims. Risk management experts generally recommend 60- to 90-days written notice by mail to each active patient’s last known address.
- Safeguard the integrity of your medical records and the confidentiality of your patients’ health information by making appropriate arrangements for custody of their medical records.
If retiring from a group practice, remaining physicians in the group may assume care of most or all of your patients, so it is recommended you tell patients they may remain with the same practice and switch to another physician in the group. Remember to tell patients they are free to seek a physician outside the group should they wish to do so.
If you are retiring as a solo physician and arranged for another physician in the area to assume care for your patients, advise patients of the physician or practice name and location. If you have not made arrangements for another physician in the area to assume care of your patients, encourage them to seek a new physician as soon as possible.
Regarding medical records, obligations to maintain records in a safe, secure and confidential manner do not cease when a physician retires or a practice closes. Records may be handled in several ways:
- Patient charts may be maintained in the custody of the group practice from which you retire.
- Patient records may be transferred to the physician who will assume care of your patients.
- Patient charts may be maintained in your custody either personally or with the assistance of a records storage service.
Prior to making any of these arrangements, it is a good idea to seek legal and risk management advice for your specific situation.
Indiana also has legal requirements regarding closing a practice and medical record retention.
For more information, visit the ISMA’s Legal Resources on the ISMA Web site.
Physicians insured by ProAssurance Indemnity Company, Inc. may contact our Risk Management department for prompt answers to liability questions by calling (800) 292-1036 or via e-mail.