Closing Your Medical Practice

The following provides guidance to physicians regarding the closure of or departure from a medical practice office.

It is the Board's position that due care should be exercised when closing or departing from a medical practice. Not only does this ensure a smooth transition from the current physician to the new treating physician, but it also reduces the liability of "patient abandonment." Therefore, to ensure this occurs with a minimum of disruption in continuity of care, the physician terminating the physician-patient relationship should notify patients sufficiently in advance.

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.
  • 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.

For additional information on retirement, the CMA offers a publication that addresses physician retirement issues. For ordering information, please visit the CMA website at http://www.cmanet.org/resource-library/detail?item=retirement-notice.