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Selling Medical Records

In most situations, the selling of a private medical practice is little more than selling patients' medical records. While there may be costs allocated to goodwill, this is meaningless when the practice is sold to a physician previously unknown to the selling practitioner. Any premium over the net present value of the furnishings, real estate, or lease represents a sale of medical records.

Interestingly, there have been few legal actions against physicians who sell medical records. In many states, it is illegal to transfer medical information for nontherapeutic purposes without the patient's explicit permission. In these states, the law would seem to require that each patient be contacted for permission to transfer the records. If the permission is denied, the selling physician will have to retain the records. If the patient cannot be located, then the record might be transferred under seal to the buying physician, to be opened only if the patient contacts the physician in the future.

It is expected that HIV/AIDS will precipitate a reexamination of the selling of medical records. This will be especially threatening in states that make violations of patient confidentiality a criminal act. Even in states that allow the transfer of medical records as part of the sale of a practice, this transfer is limited to another physician, not a lay practice broker.

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