Closing or Transferring a Practice

Closing or Transferring a Practice? What You Need to Know

A doctor who is retiring or transferring his practice should attend to a variety of professional and personal tasks. Here are some do's and don'ts.

Part of the goodwill of a professional practice is the loyalty, faith and confidence between patients, doctor and staff. It may be of more value than computers, adjusting tables and patient supplies. That’s why if you plan to close or sell your practice, there are a number of steps you should take to make the process go as smooth as possible.

First of all, check with your state's board of examiners for any state-specific requirements. Some states may require a certain amount of notice to patients before a health care professional closes or sells a practice.

Next, whether you're closing your practice or selling it, you should begin to notify patients, regardless of whether your state requires such a notice. It’s vital that you give your patients enough time to find another doctor. A three-month period may be ideal because it allows you to treat a quarter-cycle of active patients.

If you’re selling your practice, including patient goodwill and records, it’s also important to review the patient records with the purchasing doctor—case by case. Before granting access to patient records, you may need a Business Associate Agreement or other document to ensure compliance with HIPAA and other privacy laws or regulations. Many patients will stay with a new doctor since he or she will already be familiar with their records. Both you and the new doctor should include a note in each patient's file to verify that the review took place. This is a beneficial step if a malpractice claim arises later.

If patients are being encouraged to stay with the purchaser, there should be an overlap in the time the selling and buying doctors are in the office, though this length of time will vary by practice. Most buyers are interested in retaining as many of the seller's patients as possible after the conveyance. For this reason, your efforts to retain patients may affect the sale price and should be spelled out in the terms of the transition.

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