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This Business Just Unwittingly Inherited a Lot of Unhappy Patients After Their Eye Doctor Abruptly Left Town

What happens when a business inherits another optometrist’s unhappy patients?




IT SEEMS MORE appointments have been scheduled by phone than usual in the last few days,” Stephanie, the primary front desk person, said to her co-worker Amanda. “All of the last handful of calls I have taken were to schedule exams for new patients. A few of them mentioned their old doc had moved away but didn’t give me any more information.”


Real Deal scenarios are inspired by true stories but are changed to sharpen the dilemmas involved and should not be confused with real people or places. Responses are peer-sourced opinions and are not a substitute for professional legal advice. Please contact your attorney if you have any questions about an employee or customer situation in your own business.


Carissa Dunphy has been working in private practice optometry since 2008 and is the founder of Optician Now ( Follow Carissa on Instagram and Facebook at @opticiannow.

Later on that week, Amanda, the optician, had a customer in optical come in with glasses that were not working for her. After the customer left, she filled Stephanie in. “After troubleshooting with her for a decent amount of time, and ultimately discovering she needs the prescription re-checked, we were at a loss. The customer said her old doctor was no longer in town and her exam benefit was not available to get a new one.” Amanda concluded, “I took down her information and told her I would see what I could do, if anything, and get back to her soon.”

Just then the phone rang and Stephanie picked it up. As she wrapped up the call and hung up the phone, she had the most puzzled look on her face.

Amanda hesitated, but asked, “What was that about?”

“Another person we have never seen.” Stephanie continued, “They said that it’s the time of year for their exam, but don’t know where to start because they have Mac-D, advanced cataracts, and a bunch of eye health history and they want their new doc to have the records.” She let out a sigh, “And guess what, her old OD is no longer in town to get the records sent over to us to take over care.”

“Did we miss something?!” Amanda said, confused. “What is going on?”

“That last phone call I took, the person told me that they usually see Dr. Hyatt.” Stephanie added, “And that Dr. Hyatt’s office has closed. No voicemail recording with information, no updates on their social media, just nothing. They said they heard through the grapevine that Dr. Hyatt had moved out of town.”


“That is strange. Why wouldn’t their office tell the one other office in town or at least have a voicemail or a note on your door with some helpful information for their patients?” Amanda replied.

“Well, everything that’s been adding up over the past few days now makes sense.” Stephanie continued, “We’re going to have to figure out how to, as an office, address all of these different issues from Dr. Hyatt’s place.”

“I guess if we now know that their office is closed I’ll have to figure out how to get my customer an Rx check.” Amanda added, “If they need a lens change on their glasses I wonder how I will even begin to do that!”

“I’m sure these aren’t the last of Dr. Hyatt’s patients we will hear from. We need to get some solutions quickly,” Stephanie concluded.

The Big Questions

  • What is accepted protocol for closing a private optometry practice and ensuring continuity of care?
  • How does this office take on all of these “issues” without potentially losing money or suffering reputational damage?
  • What does the new office do about potentially unobtainable medical records/patient history?
Jenn C.
San Diego, CA

Notify all patients at least three months before closing, via emails, when they come in, phone calls, post card mailers. Notify nearby practices of the closing and work on “selling” your records to another office. Once you find another practice who is willing, capable and desiring to take on your patients, start the transition process of notifying patients again when they come in, via phone, email, and post card mailers of the new doc’s location, their hours, give them cards, give them access to view their website and the doctor’s bio. Leave an open line of communication between you and the patients and between you and the new office for at least 3-6 months so that there can be continuity of care, any questions can be answered, and specific cases for patients can be addressed.

Scott K.
Dover, OH

By law , records must be available for seven years from exam date. The doctor that closed his office is responsible for record access. Our office gladly does Rx checks from other doctor offices. We charge a refraction fee and patients are happy to pay the smaller fee because they assume they might have to pay for a full exam.

In this scenario, I would let the patient know we can remake the lenses from the old office at 40% off as a courtesy because we feel bad that they just paid for a pair recently at the old office. This makes our office look great for not charging full price and we win a patient for life. It’s not about making money short term. Think about the profit made over the long run.

Finally, with the patient with the ocular health issues, all you can do is assure them we’ll start from scratch and do a very thorough eye exam and take great care of them going forward.

Justin T.
Pittsfield, MA

The accepted protocol, and what happens in the real world, can more often times vary greatly. It stinks that the other doc peaced out so abruptly, but no point dwelling on the past. In my opinion, this is a fantastic opportunity to let your business shine in your community. Step in, step up, and show everyone why you’re the best option for eyecare (even if you may be the only place left in town). As far as how to handle the missing medical histories, I’d take this approach: Give your techs a heads up on what’s going on, make sure they are getting all the juicy details from their past the best you can, and work forward from there.

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