Explain employment risks, benefits to physicians

Hospital employment contracts can open up physicians to unknown professional risks, yet some doctor groups still are joining hospitals regardless, with benefits outweighing the gamble in physician employment.

A column in American Medical News warns physicians about the "traps" of hospital employment agreements. Steven M. Harris, partner at Chicago law firm McDonald Hopkins, cautioned docs against signing the dotting line without negotiating terms. Hospitals, therefore, may want to consider addendums that offer flexibility for individual doctors, rather than having them all sign boilerplate language in a contract.

Organizations also should be clear about the risks involved in the agreement. The same things that attract physicians to hospital employment may be the exact things that will deter them. Be clear about termination period, whether that means a 30-, 60- or 90-day termination period. Also explain the liability on expenses after the productivity threshold, should the agreement include such a clause.

The risks for physicians, however, might not prevent them from joining the ranks of the hospitals. In fact, American Hospital Association data indicate hospitals' physician employment jumped 32 percent from 2000 to roughly 212,000 physicians in 2010.

For some, the hospital-physician partnership is an evolution in healthcare.

"What really put us over the edge is, I think private practice is really changing in the community," said Kaare Weber, an endocrine surgeon and associate medical director of surgical services at White Plains (N.Y.) Hospital, which includes the network of the White Plains Hospital Physician Associates, Fairfield County Business Journal reported.

"The medicine part is the same whether you're doing it in a private practice or a hospital. But there are all of those other things ... here the focus is on taking care of patients and letting the hospital do the rest," Todd Weiser, director of thoracic surgery at the hospital, said. "And everyone benefits. Patients don't have to go into the city to get state-of-the-art care."

For more information:
- read the amednews article
- see the Fairfield County Business Journal article

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