A lawyer shares his top strategies for managing medical doctors. He advises making sure expectations are clear from the start and tells how to protect your hospital or health system when relationships go sour.
A. Robert Fischer
The employed physician trend shows no sign of stopping, with approximately 26% of physicians currently employed within a hospital or healthcare system. This creates new challenges for human resources executives, because these are professionals unaccustomed to being managed—and, in some cases, don't even comprehend what it means to be an employee.
"Lab techs, LPNs, RNs, PNs and so on are used to working under the direction and control of others," says A. Robert Fischer, an attorney for the White Plains, NY-based firm Jackson Lewis, specializes in defending hospitals and healthcare systems against disgruntled physicians formerly employed by them. "Physicians literally make life and death decisions… They feel that they should be given a very wide berth with respect to all matters of their professional lives," he explains.
"Most physicians go to medical school [without] hoping to manage other physicians, or giving it much thought. Nor do they give much thought to being employees on some rung of some ladder in an employment relationship," says Fischer.
Predictably, this culture does not always fit well into the context of an employment situation, and employed physicians are more likely to sue than other healthcare workers when employment doesn't work out. "For healthcare clients…. physician litigation constitutes easily 20% of the [litigations]," says Fischer. Given that only about 8% of healthcare employees are physicians, this is proportionally very large.
Lena J. Weiner is an associate editor at HealthLeaders Media.