Patient notification requirements when leaving a medical practice

On Behalf of | Feb 7, 2022 | Health Care Law

Physicians have the right to change where they practice, just like any other profession. Whether they do so for a different challenge, because they relocate to a different city or they find a more lucrative position elsewhere, it’s a personal decision left to the individual. But unlike many other professions, there are specific notice requirements physicians must fulfill when they make a move.

Avoiding patient abandonment

Texas Administrative Code Section 22-165.5 sets forth the required notice a physician must give to their patients when they leave a practice. It applies to any physician who leaves one practice for another or retires completely. Reasonable notice must be given to all patients, so that they may obtain a copy of their medical record or have it transferred to a different physician.

The statute does not, however, specify how much time constitutes ‘reasonable notice’. Instead, it will depend upon the nature of the practice the physician is leaving. For instance, for someone who is leaving a hospital, where another physician can readily step in and assume their role, short notice may be fine. But for a sole practitioner who is closing their practice, more time may be required to ensure patients are not abandoned.

As for the form of the notice, the statute permits the physician to post the notice on their website or publish it in a local newspaper. Whichever of these methods the physician chooses, they must also post the notice in their office. And finally, a letter or email must be sent to every patient seen within the previous two years. Failing to follow these notice requirements could result in disciplinary action or even litigation.