Managing Client Files When You Leave a Clinic

Tuesday, August 25, 2020, 03:10 PM

Holistic health practitioners work in many different environments, and they often move locations or choose to open a home-based business as their practice grows. Every clinic or spa has its own unique draw:

  • overall atmosphere of the space
  • types of clients it sees (athletes, children, people suffering from a chronic illness, etc.)
  • benefits offered to employees (mentorship, competitive commission splits, benefits, laundry service, etc.)

Determining who retains the client files is often the most uncomfortable part of leaving a clinic, especially if you are leaving on bad terms. However, you can avoid this by having an agreement detailing how to handle client files in place before you start working at the clinic.

A card file cabinet with an open drawer

Whether you are an employee or a contract worker, here are some things to consider before you leave a clinic and tips to avoid the awkward conversation about what will happen to your client files when you leave.

Important Information about Client Files

Nobody "Owns" the Client

Clients have the right to choose their health care providers. They may choose to follow you or they may decide to remain at the original clinic. Whatever the client chooses, both you and the clinic owner must respect it and cannot pressure the client in any way.

Clients Own Their Information

Therapists and clinics are only custodians of client information. As a practitioner, it is your legal responsibility to ensure the personal information of your clients is kept safe and confidential.

NHPC members are required to have access to a client's records for 10 years past the date of the last treatment you provided to them.

Canadian Privacy Laws

Current Canadian privacy laws state that practitioners can collect information from clients for the purposes of carrying out business-related activities at the clinic they choose to attend.

Contacting clients when you have moved to another clinic can be seen as a breach of privacy. You should discuss the client's treatment options with them before you leave the clinic to avoid breaching Canadian privacy laws.

Leaving a Clinic When You are an Employee

How client files are managed depends largely on where you work. Generally, if you are an employee of a clinic or spa you:

  • get paid a wage or salary
  • receive holiday pay
  • have payroll deductions like income tax withheld from your paycheck and submitted on your behalf to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
Client receiving instruction from masked therapist

In this case, the client files belong to the clinic owner, even though you provided the services.

When you work as an employee, you can only take copies of client files with written permission from the client. To obtain this, have the client sign a waiver consenting to the release of their information. This allows the clinic owner to release the file or a copy of the file to you when you leave.

Leaving a Clinic When You Are a Contract Worker

If you are retained as a contract worker instead of an employee at a clinic or spa, you must have a written contract in place that specifies who retains client files when your working relationship ends.

The agreement should outline who keeps the client records when you leave and how to contact clients after the employment contract between you and the clinic owner is terminated.

As a contractor, you must have the client's written permission to take their file with you to your new clinic or home-based practice. Again, to obtain this, ask the client to sign a waiver consenting to the release of their information.

Taking client information without the client's permission is a breach of privacy and trust, and it can be considered property theft by the clinic owner.

Client File Agreement

Regardless of whether you are an employee or a contract worker, the process for managing client files should be agreed on when employment begins.

If you are currently working at a clinic that does not have this type of agreement in place, consider asking the owner to make one so there are no issues in the future. The following information should be included in the client file agreement:

  • who will be responsible (the therapist or the clinic owner) for retaining clients files for the required 10 years
  • how client files will be disposed of after 10 years
  • if the files remain in the custody of the clinic, a written agreement ensuring the therapist's access to their client files when necessary (this is important because the therapist must have access to their client's files for 10 years after the date of the last treatment provided to the client)
  • how current clients will be notified of the therapist's change of practice location

Contact Us About Managing Your Client Files

If you have any questions about what happens to your client files when you leave a workplace, please contact our Practice Management Team.

Recent Blogs