Monthly Archives: April 2013


 This is the third in series of articles about changing or
terminating a practice.  This article focuses on notifications to
patients when a doctor retires or goes to another practice.

When physicians leave a practice, both the practice and the doctor should make sure that certain third parties are notified in addition to notifiying patients.  Vigilance in such notifications helps protect each party from liability and potential adverse consequences in the future.

NOTICES SHOULD BE IN WRITING.  Be prepared to prove that you made the required communications

Parties to Notify

upon the provisions of contracts and state law, both the departing physician
and the practice may need to notify various the following third parties:


Professional liability carriers need  to
know of any changes in order to ensure coverage of the care rendered in both
the prior and future practice settings. Physicians who are retiring and have a
claims made policy should inquire about extended reporting period endorsements or tail coverage.

Medical, life and disability carriers should also be notified.


All payers should be notified of the change.  This should be done as soon as possible, especially with regard to Medicare, in order to make sure that payments to the physician in the new practice.


The medical
staff committee of hospitals where the departing physician has privileges. If
he or she is on-call at the hospital, notify the emergency department as well.

State Licensing, Permits, Certifications, Registrations.

The state
board of medicine (if required by state law).  Any other federal or state licensing in held in the name of the departing physician (as opposed to the name of the practice).

Other Contracts.

Any contract held in the name of the departing physician, such as building or equipment leases.

counsel for assistance as needed in contract provisions and employment law.

By: Matthew L. Kinley, Esq.




This is the second in series of articles about changing or
terminating a practice.  This article focuses on notifications to
patients when a doctor retires or goes to another practice.


should the organization do when (1) a physician decides to leave and (2) the physician’s patients decide to stay with organization?

First, as stated in the prior posting on this subject, the
patient should be notified about the change in physician.  The patient should be provided the
opportunity to make inquiries, and someone within the organization should be
tasked with taking those calls. If the care will be provided by another
practitioner with the same scope of practice as the departing physician, the
organization should make sure that physician is appropriate for the
patient.   If the physician is in the same practice, notice should simply inform the
patient of the new physician’s name, and reference that the medical records
will be maintained.

Special care should be utilized when replacing a specialist, particularly if a different type of specialist will be the replacement.  The organization should make sure that the replacement physician has the capability to service the patient.  The notice to the patient should reflect the change in specialities.

to the Departing Physician‘s Patient.

general, physicians are not liable for the care given by the previous provider,
unless they were part of the same medical group or otherwise participated in
the prior care. To promote continuity of care and avoid allegations of failure
to diagnose or failure to follow-up, however, the new provider assuming care of
the patient should obtain the patient’s medical record from previous providers
and review it. Once the review is complete, make an entry in the medical
record, noting pertinent history and current healthcare plan and needs.  At the time
of the first visit, carefully evaluate and document the  patient’s current
condition at the time of the first visit. Take special care to document the then-current condition of the patient and changes to the patient’s care plan.

A top cause of malpractice lawsuits is comments by physicians about their predecessors and their care or lack thereof.  Lawsuits will often include both the new and the old physician.  Physicians should be counseled to focus on the current condition of the client and appropriate treatment options.When discussing prior care, all physicians should use maximum caution.   Physicians and nursing staff should restrict their comments to the known medical facts, and refrain from speculation or
blame. If asked by the patient to render an opinion about the prior physician’s
decision-making process or care, inform the patient that you were not present
during that aspect of the care and are therefore not able to comment upon it.
Refer the patient back to the prior physician.

By: Matthew L. Kinley, Esq.


This is the first in series of articles about changing or terminating a practice.  This article focuses on notifications to patients when a doctor retires or goes to another practice.

Physicians who retire or leave a medical practice are
duty-bound to notify patients of the change.
Even if the physician is employed by a group or other corporate model,
the physician and the entity should work together to notify patients that the
physician is changing practices and how the patient will obtain continued
care.   The patient must have the right
to change physicians, even follow the departing physician, if the departing
physician is still providing care.

Consider this scenario:  A doctor leaves a practice, fully expecting the practice to follow-up on her patients.  A chronically ill patient is unable to get an appointment with “her doctor,” and fails to come in for a regular visit.  The patient dies fromt the chronic disease, a death that arguably wouldn’t have occurred if she had visited her phsyician’s office.  The claim agasint the physician:  Abondonement of Patient.  The scope of this article is preventing such claims.


The California Medical Board recommends that “due
care be exercised when closing or departing” a medical practice to ensure
against “patient abandonment.”
This includes notification of the move.
As stated by the Medical Board:

“It is the patient’s decision from whom to receive
medical care. Therefore, it is the responsibility of all physicians and other
parties who may be involved to ensure that:

  • Patients are notified of changes in the medical practice.
    This is best done by letter to patients by the physician explaining the change,
    including the final date of practice. (The California Medical Association (CMA)
    recommends, if possible, that letters be sent by certified mail, return receipt
    requested, and that a copy of the letter with the return receipt be kept. To
    inform inactive patients or those who have moved away, the CMA also recommends
    placing an advertisement in a local newspaper.)
  • Patients be advised as to where
    their medical records will be stored including how they may access them.
  • To
    facilitate the transfer of medical records to the new treating physician, an
    authorization form should be included in the letter.
  • That patients secure another health care provider. If the
    practice is being taken over by another physician or another can be
    recommended, the patients can be referred to that physician.”


Retiring or Leaving Physicians. 

 When physicians retire or leave a practice, patients have
the right to decide who will provide them care.
They may stay with the current practice, continue their care with the
departing physician, or go to some other physician all together.

 Physician’s Agreement.

 The original practice agreement should address the
process to be used when a physician leaves the practice.  Such agreement should not interfere with the
patient’s right to choose their physician.
All parties should cooperate to send appropriate notice to patients.

Avoid Patient Abandonment.

 Before the departing physician terminates any
physician-patient relationship, that patient must be given sufficient advance
notice to enable him or her to secure the services of another physician. Failure
to provide sufficient notice may leave the departing physician and/or the
practice vulnerable to charges of patient abandonment, which is when a
physician fails to provide for necessary medical care to a current patient
without adequate justification. In general, once a physician-patient
relationship is established, the physician and the practice have an ongoing
responsibility to the patient until it is terminated.

Patient Notification.

 The exact nature of the notification depends on the
patient.  Patients with more severe
conditions require more immediate notification, and consideration should be
given to sending letters by certified mail, with return receipt requested. Such
patients are those who are more likely to experience adverse outcomes and allege
abandonment if their physician is unavailable for ongoing care. You should use
your professional judgment when deciding who falls within this category.
Examples would include post operative patients and those currently being
followed for serious or chronic conditions.
The parties should keep a copy of the notification letter and
certification material in the patient’s record. 

Active patients who aren’t high risk should be sent a letter by regular
post. Examples of active patients include those seen within the last 12 to 18
months. Keep a copy of the notification letter in the patient’s record.  Notify other patients who won’t be receiving
a letter by placing a notice in the local newspaper with the largest circulation,
putting a sign up in the lobby and preparing a patient handout.

The practice should also provide a script for
on what to say. This should include information on how to contact
the departing physician.

What should the patient notification say?

 If the departing physician will be available for ongoing
care, explain to patients that the physician is leaving the practice but is
available in the area. Tell patients that they have the choice of staying with
the practice or continuing to see the same physician in his or her new
location. Instruct patients who choose to follow the physician that, upon their
written authorization, a copy of their medical record will be forwarded to the
physician at his or her new location.

To expedite the transfer of records, you should consider
including an authorization form with the letter of notification. If your
practice is going to charge the patient for the photocopying costs, you should
inform the patient what the fee will be. Any material that is related to
patient care should be considered part of the medical record and should be
provided to the new physician. Both the practice and the new physician should
keep a copy of the medical records.

The best practice for both the group and the doctor is to work together to send notices to the patients in order to prevent claims in the future for patient abandonment.

By:  Matthew L. Kinley, Esq.

Prescribing Medication or Drug Dealing? Better Know the Difference.

California physicians need to understand the ramifications
of prescribing medication to patients who may not need them.  This is true
even if the physician is openly and publicly conducting medical examinations of
the patient, and thereby giving the impression that the physician has nothing
to hide and is prescribing the medication to patients with legitimate

A Southern California physician, named Alvin Ming-Czech Yee,
recently agreed to plead guilty to charges of illegally prescribing drugs to
patients with whom he frequently conducted nightly meetings in Starbucks
stores.  In fact, Dr. Yee met with almost a dozen people almost every
evening between 7 and 11 pm in Starbucks stores throughout Orange County. 
During the meetings, Dr. Yee would perform short examinations, even checking
the pulse and blood pressure of patients.  One patient—an undercover DEA
agent—quoted Dr. Yee as saying: "Bet you never had your blood pressure
taken in a Starbucks before." 

Federal officials began to suspect wrongdoing when one of
Dr. Yee's patients, a 21-year-old woman, died of a drug overdose after he
prescribed drugs for her.  Further investigation revealed other suspicious
facts: approximately one-third of Dr. Yee's patients were 25 or younger; Dr.
Yee was charging patients $600 per meeting; Dr. Yee was prescribing highly
abused drugs such as OxyContin, Vicodin, Xanax, and Adderall; Dr. Yee's name
was associated with several other overdose deaths under investigation; and investigators
seized large quantities of commonly abused drugs from drug dealers in Seattle,
Phoenix, and Detroit whose prescriptions were linked to Dr. Yee. 

These facts, coupled with the unusual setting of his nightly
visits, led federal prosecutors to conclude that Dr. Yee was illegally selling
prescriptions to patients with no legitimate need for them.  The
government's medical expert, who reviewed Dr. Yee's practice of performing
cursory examinations in Starbucks stores, called it, "a front for drug dealing." 
Dr. Yee will likely spend the next 8 to 10 years in prison for his
actions.  Given the strict consequences, physicians need to be sure they
are prescribing medication to patient's who really need them and avoid
scenarios that might be perceived as “a front for drug dealing.”

By Pamela Tahim


The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has posted remarkably readable and useful information about the transition from ICD-9 to ICD-10 on their website.  Click here to see. 

On October 1, 2014, a key element of the data foundation of the United States’ health care system will undergo a major transformation. We will transition from the decades-old Ninth Edition of the International Classication of Diseases (ICD-9) set of diagnosis and inpatient procedure codes tothe Tenth Edition of those code sets — or ICD-10 — the version currently used by most developedcountries throughout the world. ICD-10 allows for greater specicity and detail in describing a patient’s diagnosis and in classifying inpatient procedures, so reimbursement can better reect the intensity ofthe patient’s condition and diagnostic needs.
This transition will have a major impact on anyone who uses health care information that contains adiagnosis and/or inpatient procedure code, including:

• Hospitals

Health care practitioners and institutions

Health insurers and other third-party payers

Electronic-transaction clearinghouses

Hardware and software manufacturers and vendors

Billing and practice-management service providers

Health care administrative and oversight agencies

Public and private health care research institutions

Planning and preparation are important to help streamline your practice’s transition.