Thousands of physicians retire, sell, quit or move their practices every year. When this occurs, a physician cannot just walk away from their patients and other obligations. Patients and insurance carriers need to be notified, fraud laws must be complied with and legal obligations must be dealt with. Neglecting these details when closing an existing practice can result in problems that affect a physician for years.
One of the most important steps to take when leaving a practice is to give appropriate notice. If patients are not notified that their physician is exiting the practice, they may have a claim of patient abandonment against the departing physician if they can demonstrate that they suffered an injury as a result. Notice should be given promptly, specify the date of departure, include the physician’s new contact information and refer patients to other qualified physicians in the area.
Notice should also be provided to medical malpractice carriers, managed care plans, insurance networks, licensing boards and hospital administrators when applicable.
In addition to providing treatment, physicians are custodians of medical records. When closing a practice, a physician must notify his or her patients where their medical records will be stored. In deciding where to store these records, it is advised not to store them informally with a colleague, as problems can arise. A contract should be used that articulates the responsibilities and obligations of the party storing the records.
Review All Contracts
All existing contracts should be reviewed, including any employment agreements, managed care contracts and shareholder (buy-sell) agreements. Failing to give notice that you are exiting the practice can result in lawsuits for breach of contract. Any covenants not to compete or non-solicitation clauses should be carefully reviewed before establishing a new practice or joining an existing practice.
Make sure that you understand your tail coverage obligations. A tail policy covers malpractice claims for incidents that occurred while you were still with the practice, but were filed after you left the practice. Make sure your coverage does not lapse due to lack of payment.
Ensure The Sale of Your Practice Does Not Violate Anti-Kickback Laws
The federal government considers some practice sales a source of illegal kickbacks. For example, if a physician sells his practice (and its Medicaid or Medicare referrals) to a hospital then begins working there as an employee, this may constitute an illegal kickback scheme.
Remember to Meet All Legal Obligations After Retirement
A retired physician must still respond to subpoenas and answer complaints filed with the licensing board. Putting one’s license on inactive status will not absolve a physician of the ongoing duty to respond to legal obligations that arose from the context of a prior practice.
Philadelphia Health Care Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates Provide Counsel to Physicians Who Are Retiring, Selling or Moving Their Practice
Although the prospects of moving on to a new phase of your life may be exciting, it is important not to neglect important obligations to existing patients and others affected by your decision. The experienced Philadelphia health care lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates can protect you from liability when closing your practice. We serve clients throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. Call us at 215-569-1999 or contact us online today for a free consultation in our Philadelphia offices.