I received an email lot long ago from a practice manager concerend about how to handle the impending departure of one of their doctors – a common issue for many health business owners and if they should send a letter to the leaving doctors patients — here where my thoughts on this topic ( I will call the leaving doctor – Dr Mary – to make this easier to follow):
1. I would not send letters to Dr Marys past patients telling them she is leaving – instead I would make sure that your admin team have a very tight script that you use when any of her patients calls (after she has left) – that mentions the new doctor that has taken over Dr Marys case load, how good the new doctor is- and that the new doctor had been brought up to speed with the all of Dr Marys old patients – this will encourage the caller to book with the new doctor rather then look for someone else.
2. The caller should be immediately offered an appointment with the new doctor – DO NOT say ” Do you want to make an appointment with the new doctor?” – you need to assume that the patient will be happy to transfer over and make the appointment accordingly – this is vital.
3. By sending a letter to Dr Marys patients you are giving her past patients a reason to look somewhere else – ie if they have a problem in 3 months time they may automatically start looking for a new doctor somewhere else because they know that Dr Mary is no longer at your practice.
4. Try and keep the fact that Dr Mary is leaving relatively quiet for as long as possible – then in the final consult or two with each of her patients – Dr Mary will hand over her current patients care to someone else ( this is always best done personally – ie Dr Mary introduces the patient to her new doctor and mentions how good the new doctor is – again to reduce patient drop outs due to the change in health professionals).
5. I am actually becoming a believer that it is best to get a therapist out of your organisation as soon as they decide to leave – rather than have a long and drawn out departure period. I have personally found that our most successful transitions have been where a therapist leaves – almost immediately – as long as you have a good quality replacement ready to fill the gap.
6. The lingering health professional can often be rather destructive to your business – they often slacken off – become dis-interested and can even go to the stage of copying databases and other sensitive information – I know many businesses that pay the departing team member their 4 weeks pay and get them to leave on the spot – appreciating that the 4 week delay costs more than it does to pay the person out.
Ultimately you have to decide the best course of action for your business – however I am not convinced you gain anything from sending a letter to Dr Marys past patients – from a business perspective I would rather them assume that she is still part of your team and use tight front desk scripts to convert the caller to the replacement doctor when the old patient calls.
If you are interested in finding more about staff issues in health care I suggest you get a copy of my Million Dollar Health Professional part Five – Hiring, Firing and Retaining Health Professionals” – which can be previewed and purchased at
I hope this information was useful and I welcome your comments.