You have been working in private practice most of your medical career. Now you’ve decided it is time for a change. Transitioning to locum tenens work is the way you want to spend the remaining 10 to 12 years you have left as a full-time clinician. You have made an excellent choice, but now you have to implement that choice by tying up the many loose ends.
Doctors across the country are closing up private practices and leaving group practices in favor of locum practice. The locum lifestyle is ideal for doctors who want more flexibility, the ability of travel, and an opportunity to practice medicine without having to worry about the business side of things. Still, the business needs to be addressed in the transition.
Informing Your Patients
Despite all the good things that await you as a locum, you may find the hardest part of the transition is saying goodbye to those patients you’ve been seeing for years. You have probably built some pretty strong relationships during your time in private practice. It can be painful to sever those relationships.
A good rule of thumb is to begin informing your patients early enough to allow them to find new doctors. At least a few months is a good starting point. Most of your patients will be okay receiving a letter or an email from your office. However, there will be a few who would truly appreciate being told in person.
Informing Your Insurance Provider
You will be notifying your current insurance carrier to let them know of your career change. Most insurance companies require somewhere between 30 and 45 days with the understanding that you may still be faced with litigation even after you close your practice or leave the group you’ve been part of.
Also, consider whether you intend to keep your current insurance after transitioning to locum work. It is not uncommon for staffing agencies to offer free medical malpractice insurance as a recruiting incentive, so you may want to hook up with one or two before you decide what to do about insurance.
Informing Your Staff
If you are part of a group practice that will continue without you, staff members will probably not be negatively impacted in terms of their employment. Of course, that is contingent upon your practice having no staff members hired exclusively to work with you. If you are closing a practice though, layoffs are inevitable.
Your staff deserves to be informed as soon as possible. They need enough time to secure future employment. If you can be of assistance helping them with transitional plans, you should do so. It is the right thing to do.
- Informing Your Accountant
Last but not least is informing your accountant. You’ll need to start working right away on closing the books for your current practice and setting you up to start practicing as a locum.
Understand that locum tenens doctors are independent contractors for tax purposes. They operate as sole proprietors taking multiple contracts during the course of a single tax year. This sort of arrangement is different in the eyes of the IRS than owning and running a private practice. That means you and your accountant will have to change the way you do business on paper. It’s not a big deal, but it has to be done right.
Now that you’ve made the decision to transition to locum work, a whole new world of medicine awaits you. Get those loose ends tied up sooner rather than later. Whatever you do, make sure they are tied up both legally and ethically.