Patient Notification of Practice Transitions

When a physician retires, or closes or relocates his or her medical practice, Texas Medical Board rule 165.5 requires the physician to notify patients before terminating care to avoid patient abandonment. What about other practice transitions, such as selling assets to a practice management corporation or joining a group? What kind of notification is required in these situations?

Abandonment is not a problem as long as the physician will be treating the same patient population, says TMA’s recently revised (April 2012) publication, Closing or Selling Your Medical Practice. It could be a problem if, for example, the practice transition involves a decision to not serve some segment of the existing patient population (e.g., patients covered by certain health plans, or if the scope of treatment changes). In such situations, the physician should notify patients.

Abandonment is not a problem as long as the physician will be treating the same patient population, says TMA’s recently revised (April 2012) publication, . It could be a problem if, for example, the practice transition involves a decision to not serve some segment of the existing patient population (e.g., patients covered by certain health plans, or if the scope of treatment changes). In such situations, the physician should notify patients.

When assets are sold to a practice management corporation, one might argue no notification is necessary because the asset sale should not, at least in theory, alter the underlying medical practice. Although the corporate practice of medicine doctrine in Texas usually results in the selling of the practice’s assets rather than the practice itself, patient notification of legal practice transitions is still advisable. An ownership change has the potential to disrupt the physician’s everyday operations, and this could affect the physician’s relationships with patients.

When a practice transition involves affiliation with a larger group, patients who had been used to receiving their medical care from a solo physician may be confused by the new arrangement. Notification of the affiliation in such circumstances also is consistent with medical ethics.

In these situations, notice could consist of newspaper ads announcing the merger of two medical practices or, in the case of an asset sale, a printed notice in the physician’s office.

Closing or Selling Your Medical Practice by Michael Z. Stern, JD, and TMA General Counsel Rocky Wilcox, JD, and covers practice valuation, antikickback laws, noncompete covenants, medical records, subpoenas, planning for disability and death of a physician, and more. Buy it now through the TMA Education Center. Continuing medical education credits are available.

Published April 16, 2012 


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