- Clearly communicate your decision and reasons for terminating the relationship with the patient as compassionately and supportively as possible.
- Provide the patient with a reasonable amount of time to find another otolaryngologist. What is “reasonable” will vary, depending on the patient’s individual circumstances and the level of care required.
- Offer to provide the patient with assistance in finding a new otolaryngologist.
- Offer to provide the patient or the patient’s new otolaryngologist with a copy of the patient’s medical record.
- If the patient is in need of medical care during the transition period, it is advisable to provide that care so the patient is not abandoned while he/she finds a new otolaryngologist.
- If the patient will require ongoing medical care, make sure that information is clearly conveyed to the patient.
- If the patient has been habitually noncompliant with the treatment plan, ensure that the patient has an accurate understanding of the possible consequences.
- Inform your office staff about the termination so that they may handle any contacts with the patient appropriately.
- Notify the patient’s other health care providers of the transfer to the new otolaryngologist.
- Document the termination process and maintain detailed records of any discussions with the patient.
- Send the patient a letter drafted by a health care lawyer confirming the termination and the reasons for this decision. Be sure to send the letter with tracking and delivery confirmation in case a question arises as to whether the letter was sent and received.
- Place a copy of the letter and the postal receipt in the patient’s medical record and write a final entry in the record.
You may consider including the following sample language in a termination letter sent to a patient:
Explore this issue:January 2013
“This letter is to inform you that I am terminating our physician-patient relationship. I do not believe it is in your best interest for me to continue as your physician for the following reasons … After [date], I will not be in a position to provide you with further medical care. Until that time, I will be available to render emergency services to you, but I urge you to obtain the services of another otolaryngologist as soon as possible. I will be happy to forward a copy of your medical records to you or to your new otolaryngologist upon receiving your signed, written request.”
Both the patient and physician have the right to terminate the physician-patient relationship. However, it is important for the physician to be fully cognizant of the patient’s situation.