Question: I have an opportunity to go on a month-long vacation. Should I just close my practice during that time?
Posted in Operational & Staff Risks on Wednesday, May 8, 2019
Answer: Closing your practice for a month is not conducive to your patients’ continuity of care. While you should be able to go on vacation, you need to provide for your patients’ clinical needs first.
One option is to find a locum tenens doctor. However, make sure to do your due diligence before retaining the doctor’s services.
Begin by asking colleagues who have retained a locum tenens for their recommendations. Look for a doctor who has a good reputation and is a good fit with your practice. Check with your state board to ensure the locum tenens doctor has a license in good standing and has no disciplinary actions against him or her. Your careful scrutiny of the doctor is important for the care of your patients.
It’s good practice to let your staff and your patients—particularly those who are seen regularly—know when you will be away as soon as your coverage plans are in place. Share the name of the covering D.C., along with his or her credentials and training, with your staff and patients.
Assure your patients that the doctor has the right expertise to care for them in your absence. Ideally, you should have the locum tenens come to your office beforehand to discuss your practice style and to have the doctor give you an adjustment. This enables you to tell your patients that the locum tenens has treated you, which shows a level of due diligence that reflects your care and competence.
When you meet with the covering doctor, go over the charts of several scheduled patients to share how your practice keeps notes in paper or electronically. Also, assign a staff person to go over the practice’s procedures and patients’ details in your absence. Try to be available by phone on occasion for questions about complicated cases.
Also, well before you leave, make sure to contact any managed care organizations to find out how to handle billing for the locum tenens doctor.
When you return, debrief the locum tenens doctor and your staff to see how things went in your absence. If there were problems or if patients had expressed dissatisfaction, follow up immediately. If all went well, you can congratulate yourself, your staff and the locum tenens on the smooth transition.