Home From The Editor Non-complete clause and hospitalists: Think before you sign on the dotted line

Non-complete clause and hospitalists: Think before you sign on the dotted line

April 2006

Published in the April 2006 issue of Today’s Hospitalist

Over the last year or so, I’ve heard from a number of hospitalists concerned about contracts that contain non-compete clauses. They point out that hospitalists, after all, can’t take patients from one practice to another. Why should they have to agree that they won’t jump ship and work for another hospitalist group in the community?

While there’s certainly some truth to that view, it ignores several realities about the current state of physician contracting and non-compete clauses, something that we explore in this month’s cover story.

For one, hospitalists may not be able to take patients from one practice to another, but they can take referring physicians. That could inflict even more damage on a hospitalist group than taking patients one at a time.

But even more importantly, the argument that non-competes don’t apply to hospitalists ignores the legal reality of modern medical practice. It’s true that restrictive covenants have been overturned in some high-profile cases, but in many states, the courts are enforcing non-competes.

There are genuine concerns about employers that are getting more aggressive about non-compete clauses, and in some cases trying to restrict hospitalists who leave them from taking any kind of work in the area. These types of restrictions are not only unfair, but they can cripple the career of a hospitalist who leaves a practice and wants to work in the community.

Our cover story this month provides pointers on what is “and what is not ” reasonable when it comes to restrictive covenants. But the take-home message is simple: Hospitalists need to realize that the contracting landscape is changing, and they need to read non-compete clauses carefully before signing on the dotted line.

Edward Doyle
Editor and Publisher