When a solo physician or dental professional dies, the medical professional’s estate must figure out what to do with the practice. Because the physician practiced solo, there are no partners who will continue the practice. The estate can not operate the practice due to the fact that it’s not accredited to practice medication or dentistry. Typically the estate has two options, either offer the practice or wind it down.
Initial Actions. Before doing anything else, take these initial steps.
– Action # 1: Inform the CA Medical or Dental Board of the doctor’s death.
– Action # 2: Notify the federal Drug Enforcement Administration of the physician’s death. When you inform the DEA, you need to receive directions on how to dispose of the staying drugs and controlled substances.
– Step # 3: Talk with the workplace manager of the practice to determine the manager’s accessibility to assist wind down the practice, and to develop a plan of action.
– Step # 4: Find a service broker who concentrates on the sale of medical or dental practices.
What to Do with the Practice Throughout the Interim Phase.
During the interim period while the estate is selling the practice or winding it down, you will require a medical professional to operate the practice.
– For dentists, the law is clear. At the death of a dentist, the executor of the estate may utilize certified dental professionals and dental assistants and charge for their services for up to 12 months after death. Ideally, the temporary dentist keeps the practice running so that you can sell it as a going concern within the 12 months.
– For physicians, the law is not so clear. By the letter of the law, the estate may not itself operate, and might not hire a doctor to run the practice throughout the interim duration when the estate is trying to offer the practice or wind it down. Remember that the estate is unlicensed. This means that, according to the law as composed, the estate should either sell or close down the practice immediately upon the death of the doctor. In the past, the CA Medical Board has permitted the estate to bring in a doctor to cover the practice for the interim duration while the practice is being sold. The CA Medical Board did so on a casual basis, however, and I can’t tell you that it has a policy of using this benefit. My guidance is for the estate representative to call the CA Medical Board and describe the situation, and intend to receive informal approval to bring in such a protection physician on a short-term basis. If granted approval to do so, the estate must move quick in dealing with the medical practice. I have seen estates that ran a practice up to one year after the physician’s death. This is definitely an abuse of the leeway offered by the CA Medical Board, and most likely makes up the unlicensed practice of medicine by the estate, which is illegal.
If you sell the practice, the workers ideally can continue with the purchasing physician. If you can’t offer the practice, then consider having the office supervisor deal with the winding down of the practice, including termination of employment, payment of quantities owed at termination, COBRA notifications, and so on. The workplace manager can monitor most other actions needed for the unwinding also, for instance, the providing of client notifications, payment of practice commitments, and the collection of receivables. You may have to pay the workplace manager a little additional to stay around for this work.
Patient records are like nuclear waste: nobody desires them and nobody knows how long to save them. Your best option is to find a doctor to take the clients and the patient records. If a patient demands his or her client records, thank the client, and provide the records to the patient instantly.
If you can’t discover a doctor to take the patient records, then the length of time should the estate store the records? I have no easy answer. There is no basic law requiring a medical professional to preserve medical records for a particular amount of time. Different laws have different requirements, for instance, 3 or 5 or 7 years. A lot of litigators encourage that you hold patient records for 10 years, on the theory that a lot of claims have disappeared after 10 years.
If absolutely nothing else, the estate ought to call the physician’s insurance carrier to determine its requirements for record retention. You do not wish to break the agreement for malpractice insurance coverage. Numerous carriers provide a reduced period for maintaining records after a physician’s death. The estate needs to hold the records for a minimum of the time period needed by the insurance provider.
Malpractice Insurance coverage.
Keep the doctor’s malpractice policy in place until it ends. For high-risk practices, consider purchasing a tail policy. Also, keep copies of the medical professional’s prior policies until you feel safe from malpractice claims against the deceased physician.
One Year Statute of Limitations.
Lastly, talk with the estate’s lawyer about the statute of constraints for estate and probate matters. There is an one-year statute of constraints for bringing a claim versus an estate which begins to run from the date of the death of the medical professional, no matter whether the claimant learns about it. The one-year statute of constraints might cut off a lot of possible claims versus the estate.
Depending on the nature of the doctor’s practice, you may feel comfortable depending on this brief one-year duration for protection from client, creditor and other third-party claims against the deceased medical professional. This is a hard decision, but it’s an important decision, so be sure to discuss it with your lawyer.