The Smart Medical Practice

Breaking Up Is Not That Hard to Do


dec_older_woman_medical_patientYour patients probably won’t be yours forever. Children grow up and leave their pediatricians. Families move and must find new providers. Patients change jobs or their employers change insurers. Patients may have to change providers because their chosen physician is not part of a network or doesn’t accept Medicare. Providers themselves may decide to practice in another city or state. In other words, most of the time, these physician-patient “breakups” are nothing personal.

Nevertheless, there are ways to end a physician-patient relationship that ease the transition for both parties.

  1. Avoid drama. Ask your patients to send a simple note specifying where to send your medical records. Let them know they don’t need to give you a reason for changing providers, but you would like to know if they were satisfied with your care.
  2. Have a final meeting if your patient wants it. He or she may ask for a status report on current and recurring health conditions, doctor’s notes, or test results.
  3. Have a procedure in place before you need one. If you haven’t dealt with patients changing practitioners, you likely will. If your EHR/practice management platform can securely share records, this will save time and postage.
  4. Know HIPAA and your state laws regarding access to health records. Each state has its own laws and may require a patient to make a formal request for records, as well as stipulate how that request will be carried out.

For one reason or another, patients want to change physicians within a practice. Will that create internecine problems? If a physician brings a new practitioner into a small office to handle an increasing patient load, his or her patients may not want to see the newcomer. Once again, figure out how your colleagues feel about inter-office “doctor shopping,” and whether it’s time to adopt a no-transfer policy. If you suspect a patient is seeking to change doctors in order to get or continue receiving prescription opiods, tell your colleagues.

Finally, make sure your online information is accurate and up to date. Chances are good there’s a patient seeking a new doctor in your area, and chances are better than ever he or she is looking for you online.


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