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Doc leaves, forwarding contact info required for how long?

 

January 22, 2014

Question:

Dear Jennifer:

About 10 years ago one of the partners in our practice left to start his own practice. We are still receiving phone calls from old patients asking for this doctor. We have always given them his new address. Recently we have hired quite a few new employees at our front desk and when calls come in for this doctor they do not know the name because we innocently neglected to inform them that they should give out his address. So last week this happened and the other doctor was quite annoyed stating that we are “required” to give his contact info. I’m just curious as to whether or not there is actually any law or mandate that requires us to give out his contact info when he has been gone for 10 years.

Thanks,
M

Answer:

10 years is a long time for patients to still be calling the practice.  Have you checked whether any online resource is still directing patients to the practice as opposed to the physician's new contact information?  It is possible healthgrades or another popular website has not been updated...

The resource we have available to reference in this instance is the AMA, Medical Ethics. 

Opinion 7.03 states -

"The patients of a physician who leaves a group practice should be notified that the physician is leaving the group. Patients of the physician should also be informed of the physician’s new address and offered the opportunity to have their medical records forwarded to the departing physician at his or her new practice location. It is unethical to withhold such information upon request of a patient. If the responsibility for notifying patients falls to the departing physician rather than to the group, the group should not interfere with the discharge of these duties by withholding patient lists or other necessary information."

No time frame is listed in the opinion as an "end date" for notice required.  Whether the practice would be open to exposure should forwarding information not be provided 10 years after departure is another question that has a more subjective answer.  If the departed physician were looking to cause a problem at this stage, which is possible, albeit distasteful given the time frame here, he/she could make a complaint to licensure and have the practice investigated, which could be completely innocuous and dismissed immediately or open a can of worms.  Here, it is probably easier to direct patients to the internet or just provide his forwarding phone number then risk a problem.


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