Tips for When It's Time to Go: How to Leave Your Practice

In today's healthcare environment, it's not unusual for physicians to move between practices or to leave an established practice to start their own. The following are considerations for those preparing to move practices.

One of the most important things for a departing physician to do is review all of the documents he or she has signed.

These could include an employment agreement, shareholders' agreement, or operating agreement. There may also be a deferred compensation arrangement, retirement plan details, advance notice provisions, and noncompete agreements. Reviewing this documentation is crucial to ensuring that the established policies of the practice are followed. By understanding what the agreement is between the practice in question and its physicians, a departing physician can ensure a smoother transition.

Another key factor to consider is the needs of patients. This includes developing a plan for patient notification, as well as planning a departure time so that patients will not fall through the cracks and be left without a physician. Physicians should actively work with their current employer to make sure this doesn't happen.

One important thing to understand is whose property patient lists, charts, and other information are: the practice's or the physician's. Most often the practice retains ownership of these, but many states allow patients to request that their information be forwarded to a departing physician.

Something else to consider when thinking about leaving a practice is noncompete agreements.

Depending on the practice, a physician could be prohibited from practicing within a certain geographic radius of their current practice, and often for a set length of time. Such an agreement can limit physicians looking to change practices, and should be treated as though it will be fully enforced.

Similarly, it is frowned upon for a departing physician to solicit employees from the practice he or she is leaving. However, fellow employees may sometimes solicit the departing physician. In this case, the physician should review their contract as well as state laws on the issue.

Although leaving a practice can be stressful, undertaking steps such as those above can save a physician time and money throughout the process. By carefully attending to details and understanding the full responsibility to their current practice, a departing physician can help ensure a smooth transition.

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