Extra practice revenue streams: Look before you leap

With tight finances still creating a struggle for many physicians and their businesses, it can be tempting, if not essential, to look for additional revenue streams to help keep the practice or the individual doctor afloat. But as recent articles published by American Medical News and Physicians Practice point out, such ventures can also raise the potential for conflicts.

In the case of selling products, such as nutritional supplements, out of a practice, for example, it's important to make sure it's being done ethically and legally, advised Physicians Practice. The article cites the American Medical Association Code of Medical Ethics, Opinion 8.063, in which the AMA raises several concerns about products sold to patients, such as whether it creates a financial conflict of interest, places undue stress on the patient, erodes patient trust or undermines the primary obligation of physicians to serve the interests of patients before their own.

In addition, physicians selling products should ensure claims about the goods hold scientific validity, and they should disclose any financial arrangements with a manufacturer or supplier, according to the article.

When it comes to physicians' moonlighting activities outside of work hours, the "rules" often depend on the individual's employment agreement with the practice, according to American Medical News. Three important questions for physicians to address before engaging in outside activities, such as serving as an expert witness, include the following:

  • Does the activity meet the criteria to be allowed under the physician's employment agreement? Although some practices might ban all moonlighting, some might permit outside activities that do not interfere with the physician's day-to-day responsibilities with the practice.
  • Does the income generated from the outside activities or services belong to the physician, the employer or both?
  • Are the outside activities covered by the physician's liability insurance policy? If so, check to see if policy language excludes a physician's activities outside his or her employment.

To learn more:
- read the article from Physicians Practice
- read the article from American Medical News