Semper Peratus (always ready) is the motto of the U.S. Coast Guard. If you are a medical or mental health professional, think about how this motto applies to you, especially if you work in a small private practice. Whether you are 30, 50 or 80 years old, you owe a duty to patients or clients to make sure that health care is seamless if the practice must be interrupted or closed, due to death, illness, disability, planned retirement or other reason. Here are some key issues you should address so you are prepared to close your health care practice when the time comes:
- Appoint a “records custodian” or “special administrator” for your practice. Ordinarily, this should be a trusted colleague who holds the same or similar license. If there are other professionals in your practice, you can easily set this up to share this responsibility. If you are a solo practitioner, you should give this considerable thought. The name and contact information for your records custodian may be shared with your patients through your HIPAA Notice of Privacy Practices or other appropriate notice.
- Appoint a covering provider(s) after obtaining their consent. Your records custodian might agree to cover or take over part of your practice or you might assemble a small emergency response team if you have a busy practice.
- Prepare a summary of critical information which you should review with both your personal representative (who will handle legal issues after you die) and your records custodian/special administrator. This critical information should include: noticeto patients; steps for implementing transfer of care to new providers; records maintenance and transfer; and office procedures. It should also include reminders to notify the applicable state licensure board(s) and names of your attorney, accountant and other professional resources. You may want to prepare a checklist with the location of various documents as well as any procedures and contact information. You will also need to identify your digital assets (including records) and give appropriate permission (including the possibility of a HIPAA “business associate contract”) for your records custodian/special administrator to access this information.
For more information, see Private Practice Preparedness: The Health Care Professional’s Guide to Closing a Practice Due to Retirement, Death or Disability, available at Smashwords (eBook) and Amazon (softcover)
Softcover on Amazon
Private Practice Preparedness is available in softcover on Amazon.
eBook on Smashwords
Private Practice Preparedness is available in eBook format, for any platform, on Smashwords.