Generally, healthcare practices today employ several physicians to cover the needs of all of their patients — but what happens when one of them leaves the practice?
When a physician joins a medical practice, they will likely have agreed to a non-solicitation clause in their employment contract. This clause will state that if a physician leaves the practice, they are prohibited from directly or indirectly soliciting the patients of the practice. This includes contacting the patients in any way, including phone, text, email or written correspondence.
As a whole, physicians need to make sure that they never abandon their patients, however, as an employee of a practice, the patients are not patients of the individual physician but of the practice. In the event that a physician leaves a practice, and a patient does not know of this departure or has a follow-up visit or is looking for the physician, then the patient will likely call the practice and ask for information with respect to that physician. Although the practice is under no obligation to disclose or to inform the patient of the physician’s whereabouts, they can always choose to do so. To avoid this scenario all together, it is best for the physician to have previously asked the employer prior to leaving, something like, “How do you want me to tell the patients that I’m leaving?” This way, there is no confusion or misunderstanding prior to the physician’s departure.
Patients always have the legal right to choose any doctor that they wish to see and leave a practice whenever they would like to. Of course, the practices will generally try to keep the patients with them so as not to lose the patient and the associated revenue. However, if a patient wants to leave a practice, they are free to do so. This is why a departing physician should update their social media and online presence as soon as possible upon leaving. As a whole, the departing physician can market or advertise themselves to the general public, so updating their social media or their professional online presence will not be considered solicitation.
In conclusion, if a patient really wants to follow a physician who has left a practice, they have a few options. They can do an online search for the doctor’s most recent contact information if the previous practice does not provide it; they can ask for their medical records from the practice and go somewhere else; and/or they can leave the practice all together. Although physicians may not be allowed to contact previous patients, there are no restrictions placed on the patients contacting any physicians they wish.
Stephanie J. Rodin, Esq.
Rodin Legal, P.C.
Tel: (917) 345-8972
Fax: (917) 591-4428