Here’s an important statistic that most people aren’t giving much thought to: One in three practicing physicians in the US is over age 65, and most of them will retire in the next five years. This means that you and your family will likely need to find a new primary care doctor or perhaps a specialist or two in the not-too-distant future. Are you well prepared to do that? Few people are. And with millions of new patients flooding the health-care system following the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the issue is more crucial than in years past because many practices are no longer accepting new patients. My advice…


  • Do an “Age Check.”

Fewer doctors are working as late in life as doctors once did. So if your doctor is in his/her late 50s or 60s (you can find out by asking directly or checking out hospital or physician information websites, such as, chances are that retirement will be coming sooner rather than later. If your doctor is in a group practice and you’ve heard good things about other physicians in the group, you should be able to easily switch.But if he is a solo practitioner or you don’t like the group’s other doctors, you should start checking out other practices. Insider tip: Don’t assume that your solo practitioner will have a successor take over his practice upon retirement. Unlike in years past, solo practices are very hard to sell these days, meaning many just shut down.



  • Don’t delay!

Medical practices all over the country are getting overloaded as they absorb the new patients now covered through the ACA. Many practices are even closing their doors to new patients, particularly those whose insurers pay the least, such as Medicare or Medicaid. So if you think or know your doctor is retiring soon and you’ll need to move to a different practice, start checking out other possibilities now. Insider tip: Your primary care doctor may be able to get you into a closed-to-new-patients internal medicine or specialty practice, such as cardiology, by making a call directly on your behalf. Don’t be afraid to ask.



  • Check out hospital practices.

More than half of all doctors are now employed by hospitals. The larger the hospital, the more likely it is to have group practices in every specialty. Most of these practices are open to new patients, but it may take months to get an initial or routine appointment. So plan accordingly.Insider tip: Many hospital-owned group practices do not guarantee that you’ll always see the same doctor. Be sure to ask about this before you start regularly seeing a doctor in a particular hospital practice.



  • Get your records.

There are no laws requiring your doctor to notify you in advance when he retires. As a result, you may find it very difficult to get copies of your records if your doctor ends up closing his practice. Insider tip: It’s always a good idea to have copies of your medical records, but it’s even more important to get them from your older doctors. Your new doctor will need to know about your treatment and medication history, vaccination records and any particular issues tied to your personal health profile, such as drug allergies.


By taking these simple steps, you’ll be prepared when your physician retires and won’t be forced to make a quick switch you may later regret.