21 July 2009
Q. What do I do with my records when I sell the practice?
Selling the practice presents special challenges especially if you no longer work in the area or have retired from clinical practice altogether. The new practice owner will have inherited your record cards but may feel quite strongly, since they have had no involvement in the care of those patients to date, that they have no legal responsibility to retain their records.
However, it may be that the contract for sale stipulated that the new owner will be indemnified by the vendor for any liabilities that arose out of treatment provided prior to the sale. It is prudent to include a clause to protect the vendor in such circumstances, stipulating that the new owner undertakes to safeguard the records on behalf of the vendor and agrees to disclose copies to the vendor or the vendor's indemnity provider if requested to do so in the future. In this way, resolution of a subsequent complaint or claim would be facilitated.
If the new practice owner also continues to employ members of the existing clinical team, it would seem entirely logical to retain the records to allow the staff to continue treating those patients; the new practice owner may also take over the employment contracts of the staff that stay on, making it desirable to transfer the relevant staff records at the same time.
Clearly it is not logical, nor indeed legal in many jurisdictions, for the vendor or the purchaser to simply destroy the records when the practice is sold; for the reasons discussed on page16 and 17 these records need to retained.
Situations can also arise which cause the incumbent dentist to retire but without the intention of selling the practice as a going concern. In these circumstances a practitioner may wish to transfer the records to another local practice with the intention that the local practice will offer ongoing care. In these circumstances the practitioner would be advised to write to the patients to inform them of the proposal to transfer the records to another practice and allow them the opportunity to object to this action.