Right to contact patients after leaving position
October 25, 2011
I recently left a private practice and joined another private practice. My employment contract with my old job did not address patient contact post-termination. What is the rule of thumb here?
The rule of thumb is that if you did not have a non-solicitation provision in your employment contract, prohibiting you from proactively contacting patients to notify them of your new situation, you would not be barred from doing so. Potential issues with you reaching out to patients may arise if your old practice is not advised prior; for instance, your old practice could potentially raise a cause of action against you for interfering with their business operations if your actions are interpreted as you drawing patients/business away. The smartest play oftentimes is the most transparent. Prior to taking any proactive steps, so long as you left on good terms, I recommend you contact the practice and discuss your best course of action regarding notification. The old practice has its own obligation to your patients; to ensure continuity of care and provide your forwarding contact information. Of course, you will likely not have knowledge as to whether the practice is adhering to its responsibility since you will no longer be physically present in the practice, which is another reason to ensure you leave on good terms. Ensuring continuity of care is paramount in this situation - so much so that had your employment contract explicitly stated that under no circumstances may you interact with patients of the practice post-termination, that provision would not likely be enforceable.
Similar to when you enter into a new relationship - when leaving a relationship it is just as important to have an agreed upon, written plan of action setting forth the parties obligations to each other. Here, had your conversation with the practice included continuity of care for your patients, issues of patient contact could have been addressed and set forth clearly in writing, so that had you reached out to your patients with the practice's consent, that consent is in writing, for use as a legal record of your arrangement, if necessary. When drafting a document of this nature, it is important to have your legal counsel draft or counsel regarding same, especially since taking the proper precautions prior to ending a relationship, including involving counsel, may just save you time, effort and money in the long run.
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at a residency/fellowship program?
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