Q. I am an employed physician who plans to leave my current practice within the next year. Because my employer owns the medical records I’ve generated here, isn’t it my employer’s responsibility to notify my patients when I leave the practice, as required by the Texas Medical Board?
A. No. Texas Medical Board (TMB) regulations state clearly that the departing physician — that’s you — is responsible for notifying all patients you have seen in the past two years. Unfortunately, there are ambiguities in the regulations, as explained in a new TMA white paper . If your relationship with your current employer upon departure is less than ideal, friction between you and the employer may emerge.
TMB says you must notify patients in three ways: (1) notice in the largest-circulation newspaper in each county where you practice and in a local paper that serves your immediate practice area, (2) written notice in your office, and (3) letters to patients you’ve seen in the past two years. It’s No. 3 that may cause problems.
A TMB rule prohibits other physicians in the practice from preventing you from posting the sign and the newspaper notice. It also implies practices may not withhold information from you that is necessary for notifying patients. Hopefully, your employer will simply give you a list of the patients you’ve seen in the past two years along with their mailing addresses so that you can discharge your responsibility. “While not expressed in the rule, it is a reasonable inference” the employer must do so, says Mike Kreager, JD, in Employment Contracts for Physicians: The Comprehensive Guide, Second Edition.
However, if your employer is interested in retaining your patients after you leave, it may not be enthused about you sending out notices that may let your patients know where you will practice after leaving your current employment, Mr. Kreager notes. (If you are subject to a noncompete or nonsolicitation covenant in your current employment contract, you cannot actually invite patients to follow you to your new practice but simply inform patients of your new employment. Some patients may choose to follow you.)
If your current employer does not turn over a patient list with addresses but does send out notice letters on your behalf, then the employer may not be in violation of TMB rules. However, you do not have to agree to this. TMB still holds you responsible for seeing that appropriate notice was made even if the employer sends the notices.
For more information on this topic, read the TMA white paper, “Notice to Patients on the Departure of a Physician” on the TMA website. Employment Contracts for Physicians: The Comprehensive Guide, Second Edition, is available in the TMA Education Center.
NOTICE: The Texas Medical Association provides this information with the express understanding that 1) no attorney-client relationship exists, 2) neither TMA nor its attorneys are engaged in providing legal advice and 3) that the information is of a general character. This is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. While every effort is made to ensure that content is complete, accurate and timely, TMA cannot guarantee the accuracy and totality of the information contained in this publication and assumes no legal responsibility for loss or damages resulting from the use of this content. You should not rely on this information when dealing with personal legal matters; rather legal advice from retained legal counsel should be sought.
Published Jan. 13, 2016
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