The longer a patient sees a doctor, the more their initial trust, confidence, and comfort with them grows. This is amplified for patients living with rare conditions as doctors visits and communication with their offices are more frequent. But what happens when you call up your doctor for a routine question and find out they’ve left the practice? Whether they’ve been fired or simply decided to move on, the news can be shocking, and quite frankly, scary.
It can be overwhelming to feel like you have to start over. Find an expert in your condition, build a relationship with them, and develop trust. It can also be hard if this new physician is in a completely different geographic location.
Many patients may decide they want to continue seeing their old doctor after hearing this news, no matter where they’ve relocated to. But noncompete clauses can make it difficult to do so.
Noncompete clauses in contracts prohibit physicians from recruiting former patients to see them at their new practice. These clauses affect around 50% of all physicians according to survey data.
“If they’ve got good therapeutic relationships with their patients, you’d think that public policy would want them to continue to treat these patients that trust them.”
After recent layoffs in an Iowa urology clinic, these clauses have severely impacted prostate cancer patients and those with kidney stones. While patients can try to follow their physicians, some clinics will refuse to take them on. That said, when cases go to court, the court will typically rule in favor of patient choice.
Some argue that noncompetes are beneficial for patients because they provide stability within practices, but its undeniable that they can also make patients feel insecure.
The details of these noncompete clauses vary some by state. For instance, in Texas, physicians are allowed to have access to a list of their past patients and they are allowed to put up a notice saying how they can be contacted at their new location. In Massachusetts and Colorado, the clauses usually aren’t enforced at all. Tennessee also puts limits on them.
Ultimately, this practice needs further evaluation. We need to ensure that we are doing the best thing not only for businesses, but for the real physicians and patients who are impacted by clauses like these.
You can read more about this issue here.