With a written plan in place for transitioning into retirement, you'll find it much easier to communicate jointly about that touchy issue. As always, you must consider the group's needs as a whole above the needs of the individual physician. Here are just some of the questions to address in formulating the retirement policy:
- Spacing retirements. If two physicians retire at the same time, it may effectively kill the small- to mid-sized group. If a practice requires no fewer than two years between each physician's retirement, it enables the integration of new doctors.
- Forcing retirement. Sometimes the partner who refuses to retire really needs to retire; for example a partner who doesn't keep up the necessary skill level. Such an issue is a valid reason for forcing a partner into retirement for the good of the group.
- Succession planning. Will you replace the retiring partner with another doctor? A nurse practitioner or physician assistant? Or will a subspecialist now best meet the practice's needs?
- Financial issues. What about accounts receivable for that partner's work? Do they belong to the practice or to him/her? Will you pay them out directly, or as part of the separation agreement? Consider these payout issues long before any retirement occurs.
- Referral patterns. Many senior partners provide their group's major referral sources. Have a plan in place to nurture those referrals so they stay with the practice. The same goes for the retiring doctor's patients-slowly transition them over to other group members.