Form a contingency plan for departing docs

With physician turnover at an all-time high of 6.8 percent, physician practices need to develop contingency plans for the possibility a doctor could leave with little to no notice. Challenges to this often-unexpected situation include office disruption, productivity declines, compromised customer service and loss of profits, according to an article from Medscape Today.

To minimize the struggle of replacing a lost physician under such circumstances, take time now to determine how you would answer the following questions should the situation arise:

  • Who will see the doctor's patients?
  • Can the group preserve the departing doctor's practice?
  • How will the group handle the absent physician's overhead expenses?
  • Would the group consider replacing the doctor with a physician assistant or nurse practitioner?
  • If not, what is the group's  physician recruitment plan?

In addition, contact your lawyer and management lawyer to determine the rules that come into play when a doctor leaves, such as provisions to keep the doctor from competing with your practice, a duty to give appropriate notice and the doctor's financial obligations for practice equipment or leases. While it's not advisable to hold a physician who wants to leave against his or her will, these details can work in your favor when working with the doctor to manage a smooth exit.

In the meantime, make sure you understand your group's obligations to the departing physician, such as buying back the partner's interest in practice assets or paying out vested retirements, but don't fulfill them any sooner than required, consultant Jeffrey Denning advised in Medscape.

"It's generally advisable not to rush to finance your new competition's entry into practice if the doctor's contract with your group doesn't include a noncompete clause," he wrote. For example, payments of accounts receivable shouldn't be advanced before they are collected.

Likewise, don't pay out for assets until all exit terms are agreed upon and fulfilled, he added. Further, don't make any payments for goodwill to a doctor who joins a competing practice, Denning wrote.

To learn more:
- read the story from Medscape Today

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