Most professionals prefer not to think about the termination side of any employment contract; however, doing so is extremely important for physicians who are employed by hospitals. Since there are so many details that apply to employment termination, this topic must be discussed ahead of time during physician employment contract negotiations. Healthcare attorneys can work with physicians to ensure they are fairly represented in all aspects of the contract, including specifics that relate to termination.
Grounds for Termination
Physician employment contract negotiations must first and foremost deal with the conditions set forth when a termination occurs. These include a clear indication of the various grounds for termination, the documentation required to support those grounds, and the length of termination notices. To protect themselves, clinicians need a carefully spelled out termination clause that includes favorable terms and notices depending upon the cause of termination and individual circumstances.
Most hospitals engage in contracts with restrictive covenants that prohibit three things:
- Other employment with competitor organizations.
- Encouraging patients to leave their current practice.
- Encouraging employees to leave their current employment.
While these restrictions are normally in effect during employment, some hospitals may also try to have them remain in effect for months and even years after a termination. The length of these restrictions can be negotiated by healthcare attorneys so that they do not prevent physicians from retaining current patients who may have followed them.
Access to Medical Records
Medical records are another area where physicians must think ahead in the event of a termination, especially if they bring existing patients with them. Since hospitals usually integrate any previous records into their record storage system, it is essential to determine ahead of time what old and new records a departing physician can access. Physician employment contract negotiations must cover all of this before a clinician brings any new patients into an organization. This should be done to ensure doctors will still have access to records upon termination.
Billing and Audits
Hospitals also have the right to require that physicians agree to certain terms regarding post-employment billing and audits as hospitals handle the billing for all clinicians. The billing departments of hospitals may handle Medicare and other billing claims; however, the physician is entitled to access those claims according to Medicare law. Additionally, hospitals should indemnify departing physicians for negligence in the submission of claims and against any audits that may occur after the fact. Since many establishments will not do this, clinicians should seek assistance from healthcare attorneys who can help negotiate a suitable compromise.
Before signing an employment contract with a hospital, clinicians must carefully consider all parts of the agreement, including what happens if and when their employment is terminated. Healthcare attorneys stress that without proper terms in place, physicians might have to deal with legal issues that pertain to the access to medical records, restrictive covenants, and other related concerns. Physician employment contract negotiations should always consider termination. All terms should be documented so there is no question as to a clinician’s rights should they be terminated for any reason.
The Stevenson Law Firm, PC
6302 W. Broadway, Suite 120
Pearland TX 77581
Phone: (832) 481-4548