What is patient abandonment?

  • By Eric Hoffman
  • Published on March 5

Navigating the Waters of Patient Care Transition: A Guide for Chiropractic Associates

Through my time at ChiroSecure, a common questions I get is regarding patient abandonment. This concern is particularly prevalent among W2 employees of chiropractic clinics, who frequently question the ramifications of leaving a position, whether through termination or resignation, on their patients' continuity of care.

Understanding Patient Abandonment

Patient abandonment, a term that often conjures up feelings of uncertainty and responsibility among healthcare providers, refers to the premature termination of the professional relationship between a healthcare provider and a patient without adequate notice or the patient's consent, thereby denying the patient care. However, the intricacies of this concept extend beyond its definition, touching on the ethical and legal responsibilities of healthcare providers, including chiropractors, and are clearly defined by the State Licensing Boards.

The Distinction for Chiropractic Employees

A critical distinction exists for W2 employees in chiropractic clinics. Unlike clinic owners or independent practitioners who directly establish a doctor-patient relationship, employees do not "own" the patient file. This distinction is crucial in the discussion of patient abandonment.

When a chiropractor leaves a clinic, whether by their own choice or not, the primary responsibility for ensuring the continuity of patient care falls upon the clinic itself, not the individual chiropractor who was an employee. The clinic is tasked with providing patients with timely notification and facilitating the transition to another qualified healthcare provider within the same practice, thus ensuring that patient care remains uninterrupted.

Key Considerations for Smooth Transitions

  1. Effective Communication: It is paramount for the clinic to communicate any changes in the healthcare provider to the patients as soon as possible. This communication should be clear, compassionate, and include information on the new provider, along with assurances of continued quality care.
  2. Documentation: Proper documentation of the patient's care plan, ongoing treatments, and any specific needs is essential for a seamless transition. This ensures the new provider is well-informed and can continue care without unnecessary disruptions.
  3. Ethical Responsibility: Both the departing chiropractor and the clinic have an ethical obligation to prioritize the patient's well-being. For the chiropractor, this means providing all necessary documentation and insight into their patients' care plans. For the clinic, it involves a proactive approach in managing the transition and supporting patients through the change.
  4. Legal Obligations: While legal responsibilities may vary by jurisdiction, it is generally required that patients are not left without necessary care. Clinics should consult with legal counsel to ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations regarding patient abandonment.


The concern of patient abandonment is a significant one, reflecting the dedication of chiropractic professionals to their patients' well-being. For W2 employees of chiropractic clinics, it's crucial to understand that the responsibility for preventing patient abandonment lies with the clinic, not the individual provider. By focusing on effective communication, proper documentation, and a commitment to ethical and legal obligations, chiropractic clinics can ensure a smooth transition for patients, alleviating concerns of abandonment and maintaining the high standard of care that patients deserve.

In navigating the complexities of patient care transitions, chiropractors and clinics alike demonstrate their unwavering commitment to patient well-being, upholding the principles of trust, continuity of care, and professional integrity that define the chiropractic profession.