Providers change practices every day, so it’s important to have a policy in place to provide guidance for patient care and records retention. A formal policy could include the following elements(1):
- Notify patients of provider’s departure (state laws vary as to whom the responsible party is for this notification, as do details of what to include in the notice; check with your legal counsel for specifics of your situs state)
- Instructions for contacting departing physician (if still practicing medicine)
- Contact information at existing practice for reassignment to another provider
- Instructions for requesting medical records
Most importantly, the policy needs to be communicated to existing staff so that there is no disruption in continuity of care.
Managing the affected patients is only one aspect of provider departures. When it comes to medical records(2), a policy should specifically outline these elements:
- Exact end date of departing provider
- Specific party responsible for transferring and archiving records
- Which party is responsible for contacting affected patients
- Updating new provider with relevant medical history of patients
Don’t rely too heavily on electronic recordkeeping, though. Nothing beats the trained eye of a professional. Electronic health record (EHR) systems(3) are only as thorough as the data that a person has entered into the system. Mistakes and oversights are just as likely to happen on a computer screen as they are to happen on paper. While EHRs save time, space, and headaches, they might also be managed with great care upon a provider’s departure from one practice to another. Fastidious record keeping is even more important in the event of retirement or death.
If you would like additional guidance in developing these types of policies for your practice, look to other sources, such as HIPAA guidelines, payer contracts, and federal programs such as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) (4).
Contact us today. We can help you formulate these types of policies to ensure that they mitigate your risk from future litigation.