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Departures or closings of medical practices

Termination of/Re-Entrance to Practice

Adopted: Sun, 2010-09-26

Back to Position Statements

Reviewed 2014-11-13 - no changes

Departures from or closings of podiatric medical practices are trying times. If mishandled, they can significantly disrupt continuity of care and endanger patients.

Provide Continuity of Care

Practitioners continue to have obligations toward their patients during and after the departure from or closing of a medical practice. Practitioners may not abandon a patient or abruptly withdraw from the care of a patient. Patients should therefore be given reasonable advance notice (at least 30 days) to allow other medical care to be secured. Good continuity of care includes preserving and providing appropriate access to medical records.* Also, good continuity of care may often include making appropriate referrals. The practitioner(s) and other parties that may be involved should ensure that the requirements for continuity of care are effectively addressed.

It is the position of the North Carolina Board of Podiatry Examiners that during such times practitioners and other parties that may be involved in such processes must consider how their actions affect patients. In particular, practitioners and other parties that may be involved have the following obligations.

Permit Patient Choice

It is the patient's decision from whom to receive care. Therefore, it is the responsibility of all practitioners and other parties that may be involved to ensure that:

  • Patients are notified in a timely fashion of changes in the practice and given the opportunity to seek other medical care, sufficiently far in advance (at least 30 days) to allow other medical care to be secured, which is often done by newspaper advertisement and by letters to patients currently under care;
  • Patients clearly understand that they have a choice of health care providers;
  • Patients are told how to reach any practitioner(s) remaining in practice, and when specifically requested, are told how to contact departing practitioners; and
  • Patients are told how to obtain copies of or transfer their medical records.

No practitioner, group of practitioners, or other parties involved should interfere with the fulfillment of these obligations, nor should practitioners put themselves in a position where they cannot be assured these obligations can be met.

Written Policies

The Board recommends that practitioners and practices prepare written policies regarding the secure storage, transfer and retrieval of patient medical records. Practitioners and practices should notify patients of these policies. At a minimum, the Board recommends that such written policies specify:

  • A procedure and timeline that describes how the practitioner or practice will notify each patient when appropriate about (1) a pending practice closure or practitioner departure, (2) how medical records are to be accessed, and (3) how future notices of the location of the practice's medical records will be provided;
  • How long medical records will be retained;
  • The procedure by which the practitioner or practice will dispose of unclaimed medical records after a specified period of time;
  • How the practitioner or practice shall timely respond to requests from patients for copies of their medical records or to access to their medical records; In the event of the practitioner's death or incapacity, how the deceased practitioner's executor, administrator, personal representative or survivor will notify patients of the location of their medical records and how patients can access those records; and
  • The procedure by which the deceased or incapacitated practitioner's executor, administrator, personal representative or survivor will dispose of unclaimed medical records after a specified period of time.

The Board further expects that its licensees comply with any applicable state and/or federal law or regulation pertaining to a patient's protected healthcare information.

* The Board's Position Statement on the Retention of Medical Records applies, even when practices close permanently due to the retirement or death of the practitioner.