Physician employment is an integral part of the practice of medicine. Many physicians today are employed by group practices, multispecialty group practices, medical faculty practice plans, hospitals or other institutions. With more medical students than ever entering the work force, this trend is likely to continue and accelerate. At some point in their careers, most physicians will likely be party to a physician employment contract.
There are many considerations that factor in the decision to enter into a physician employment contract. The physician-employee must consider the geographical location of the practice, the personalities of the other physicians, the type of work he or she will be doing, the short- and long-term economic prospects for the overall practice, and the amount of time the position will leave for other professional and nonprofessional activities. A potential physician-employee should look into the long-term obligations of the group. For instance, are any of the doctors in the group planning to retire? Will the rest of the physicians be obligated with a large buyout?
Questions can arise with respect to the term of the agreement, the duties of the physician employee, compensation, benefits, professional liability insurance, pay down of student loans, an anti-moonlighting provision, a covenant not to compete after the termination or expiration of the agreement, discipline and discharge.
An anti-moonlighting clause can specify that a doctor cannot work for anyone else while still employed in order to ensure loyalty. Similarly, a non-solicitation clause prohibits the physician from soliciting patients from the practice he/she is separating from, to follow him/her to a new location. As group practices may have multiple offices in far flung geographic areas, this could end up prohibiting the physician from practicing in a large geographic area after the employment agreement ends.
Given the breadth and complexity of physician contracts, and the fact that they govern a hospital or medical group’s professional relationship with physician-employees, it is important to handle physician contract review and negotiations carefully.
The failure to draft and analyze the employment agreement with a critical eye can lead to several landmines down the road, including unfulfilled expectations, disgruntled employees, and litigation over the terms of the agreement.
The physician should engage a knowledgeable physician contract review lawyer prior to entering into the contract negotiating process.
I contributed to the writing of the “American Medical Association Annotated Model Physician Employment Agreement.” I have also written and negotiated numerous physician employment contracts for newly minted and established physicians. As a concierge medical contract lawyer, I work closely and personally with my clients drafting, reviewing and negotiating employment contracts that include complex compensation packages, buy-ins, retirement benefits, disability benefits and restrictive covenants. As Concierge Healthcare Attorneys, LLC , I personally ensure that my clients’ employment contracts are legally sound and just.
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