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Prepare for Retirement, Closing Your Practice

The Carlat Psychiatry Blog, Volume , Number ,

There are a lot of moving parts involved in closing your practice and retiring, says James T. Hilliard, an attorney and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. Subscribers can read the full article Hilliard wrote for the The Carlat Psychiatry Report. Here are four critical tasks:

1. Inform your Board of Medicine
Most states require that you go through a formal process of applying to give up your license. If you are planning a partial retirement, there are often options for restricted licenses. For example, if you plan to do purely administrative work not involving patient contact, you can usually get a limited license that may not require either continuing education credit or malpractice insurance.

2. Inform your patients
Depending on your type of case load (medication management and/or psychotherapy), it’s appropriate to give patients a six to nine-month notice of your retirement. In most cases, you can tell patients in person, and hand them a letter with referral information. As an extra degree of caution, especially with patients who might be at a higher risk for becoming litigious, you should consider sending a letter by registered mail to ensure that they receive this information. Document in the patient record that you informed your patient of your retirement, including whether you did so orally, in writing, or both.

3. Make records available to patients and subsequent treaters
When a patient or new treater requests records, send copies only and retain the original record in your files. How long should you retain patient records? Regulations vary by state, but most boards of medicine require that you retain all patient records for at least 7 years from the date of the last patient encounter. In addition to storing records, you must arrange a way for patients to access those records over the 7-year period.

4. Know rules for malpractice protection after retirement
If an alleged malpractice occurred during active practice, retirement does not protect you against the claim. Therefore, it’s necessary to maintain malpractice insurance for a period after retirement. How long depends on the statute of limitations in your state. Insurance policies vary, and once you decide to retire, you should consult with your malpractice insurer to discuss your options for post-retirement coverage.

To read the full article, including advice on how to prepare for an unplanned retirement due to illness or unforeseen circumstances, click here.

Retirement toolkits
Looking for tools and templates that will make planned or unplanned retirement and the closing or your practice easier to manage? Carlat Publishing has teamed up with the American Psychiatric Association to create handy toolkits.

Planned Retirement Toolkit
PDF DownloadPlanned Retirement Toolkit PDF File
Click here to download.
This toolkit is designed for psychiatrists who are planning to close a practice, usually as part of a retirement plan. These tools will help you to organize materials and information needed for a successful practice closure. Having this information in one place will be particularly helpful if you plan to delegate some or all of these tasks to an assistant or other staff member. Section 10 of this toolkit includes templates of letters and other closure materials.

Unplanned Retirement Toolkit
PDF DownloadUnplanned Retirement Toolkit PDF File
Click here to download.
This is a toolkit for cases in which a psychiatrist must close a practice abruptly, due to unforeseen circumstances such as death or serious illness. These tools are meant to be used primarily by an administrator who has been predesignated by the psychiatrist. Examples of potential administrators include spouses, children, colleagues, or attorneys. We recommend that you provide this toolkit to your administrator(s) well before you think you are reaching the age when unexpected events happen.