One morning while you take your coffee break you reach out to your doctor of 10 years to schedule your next annual checkup. The receptionist informs you that while the practice remains open and one of the other doctors would be more than happy to see you, your doctor is no longer a part of the practice. When you ask if the doctor is still working and where, you are told that information may not be provided. You, being an industrious person with excellent research skills, locate your doctor at a new practice.
With great happiness you call the practice happily informing them you’ve been a patient of the doctor for ten years and would love to schedule an appointment. Soon though this happy phone call turns sour. Your doctor of the past decade is unable to take you on as a patient nor can any other doctor at his new practice. As the call ends you come to the realization that after 10 years you are now without a primacy care physician. Not because your doctor retired or passed away, but simply because your doctor made a dream came true and opened up a practice of her own.
Sound impossible? Nope. In many states this is quite possible. You could find yourself without a primary care physician or even a specialist just because that physician ended a business relationship with a medical practice. Many doctors have to sign a non-compete agreement which basically precludes them from soliciting other physicians employed at the practice or taking any patients to their new practice. It’s not just that they may not be able to inform their patients of their departure and new location, it may even prevent that new patient from seeking out the doctor on their own.
While a doctor may work for a medical facility, the patient in most cases doesn’t have a real relationship with that facility. The relationship is actually with the doctor. This is even more true of specialists who spend more time with their patients than say a general practioner. While there may be other fine doctors at the facility, they may not fit the patients needs or desires. Basically the patient may just not “click” with one of those physicians.
Medical practices are businesses and have a right to make money to pay their employees and continue to provide services to those seeking them. A medical practice though isn’t the same as a bank or a mechanic. Physicians see to our health and some have very specific specialities combined with experience. While other professionals can say the same of speciality and experience, they aren’t dealing with issues of health, life and death of a fellow human being.
“UW Health, the health care system for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, recently hired three primary care doctors who had worked across town, said Dr. Sandra Kamnetz, vice chairwoman of clinical care for the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Wisconsin’s School of Medicine and Public Health. They are taking great pains not to treat any of the new doctors’ former patients because the terms of the doctors’ contracts with their old employer prohibit them from taking care of former patients for two years.”