How to Close your Medical Practice with a Medical Records Custodian
Recently, in a conversation with a former patient of one of our physician customers, the patient expressed how smooth the process had been between the practice closing and getting a copy of her medical chart. She highlighted how her doctor had announced his retirement to patients with much time in advance. During this time, patients had the option to request their charts and were provided with HarborSafe’s contact information for further assistance. She was so pleased that her doctor had taken the time to care and make these arrangements to be so thorough with his patients.
It is precisely for this reason that we at HarborSafe created a checklist for physicians who are considering closing their practice. We want to make sure that any doctor who is thinking about retirement will take careful consideration of their patient charts. With an understanding of the patient charts’ volume, format, and retention requirements, we can help you put together an effective plan for closing your doors. Choosing a Medical Records Custodian Service like HarborSafe puts you in the best position to limit your costs and risks and allows you the freedom to do what’s next in life, without the burden of records requests.
Let’s take a look at how you can prepare yourself to close your practice.
6 Months Prior to Closure
Once you decide that your practice is closing, you should begin researching your state’s retention requirements. It is vital to understand the retention requirements as they pertain to laws regarding retaining records held by medical doctors and hospitals. Depending on these requirements, you will know how long you are responsible for managing your charts. This information is critical, especially when you start to research some possible custodians.
Now that you know what the requirements are in your state, we suggest starting to research medical records custodians. Choosing a custodian to handle your records after the practice closes is the best way to ensure that your charts will be secure and that requests are being completed timely and in accordance with the law. Opting to do the work yourself can have negative consequences, as could selecting a custodian with little knowledge and experience in the industry. We expand more on these consequences in our blog: “5 Mistakes Physicians Make When Closing Their Practice“.
As mentioned earlier, understanding the number of patient charts you have, their format (digital/paper), and the retention requirements enables you to do proper research. All the information you gather allows the custodian to assist you best. Now, let us take a look at what you should be doing three months before closing.
3 Months Prior to Closure
As you move closer to the closing of your medical practice, you will begin making announcements and notifications. Approximately three months before the closing date, it is encouraged that you draft a letter and include a record release authorization. These two documents will be sent to patients who are currently receiving treatment or were seen within the last two years. This step is critical because these patients are the most active in the practice; therefore, they will be more inclined to request their patient chart. Including a release authorization allows the patient to make a request before the office is closed, and their record is with a custodian. Remember to prioritize patients with complicated medical conditions. Consider calling the patient and following up with a letter that alerts them to choosing a new physician for continued care.
Now that you have alerted active patients and patients with complicated conditions, you will begin to post notices in your office. These notices should be in at least two different office areas where they are most accessible to patients. The information should alert them that the practice is closing and explain how to get a copy of their records while still seeing patients.
Within three months of the closing date, think of selecting one of the custodians that you researched previously. The selection of a medical records custodian provides the benefit of peace of mind, with the knowledge that once you are closed, you do not need to worry about your patient charts. Choosing a custodian at this time also allows you to focus on the many other aspects of closing your practice, such as dealing with accounts payable, insurance companies, government entities, and other legal responsibilities.
At this point, we encourage you to consider HarborSafe as your custodian partner. We securely store your records, fulfill records requests in compliance with HIPAA regulations, and continually ensure the best confidentiality and security level. HarborSafe has assisted physicians nationwide, regardless of the location, the size of the practice, or the charts’ format.
Now, let us look into the final step.
Transfer of Medical Records
The final step in partnering with a medical records custodian is the transfer of data. Your custodian will work to come up with a logistical plan that fits your schedule and your needs. Whether you have physical paper charts, an electronic medical records system (EMR), or both, HarborSafe has the experience to make the transition smooth.
Our team has helped several physicians transfer their physical paper charts to our storage facility here on Long Island, New York. We work with you to schedule the pickup, pack your patient charts, and securely store them. Our IT professionals have years of experience with several different EMR systems and will work with you and your team to transfer the data to our servers securely.
Once your data is transferred, there are two final steps to complete before you are on your way to moving on with your life. You should post a voicemail to your office’s phone that lets any caller know that the practice is closed. The voicemail should also include your custodian’s contact information so any former patient may request a copy of their record. Lastly, contact your state medical society and alert them of the practice closing. Again, you should provide them with your custodian’s information. That way, former patients have another avenue of receiving their chart.
At HarborSafe, we take pride in assisting retiring physicians across the United States. Using our checklist, you can create a plan that will reduce your costs, limit your risks dealing with PHI, and allow you to enjoy your next step in life without the burden of patient charts.
It is never too early or too late to speak with a custodian. Whether you are two years from closing and would like some information or if you have been closed for a year and no longer can keep up with requests, HarborSafe is here for you. We hope to hear from you soon!