It seems like every ten years or so the pendulum swings towards or away from physicians seeking employment from hospitals as opposed to heading off on their own or joining existing private physician practices. Over the last few years, the pendulum has swung towards hospital employment. A number of factors have arguably led to this trend including the desire by many physicians to focus their attention on practicing medicine and shifting the burden of billing, third party payor audits, EMR and compliance with the new myriad of federal healthcare regulations (e.g., Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act a/k/a "Obama Care") to the hospitals that have the resources to employ administrative staff to address such matters. A recent study published this month in the Archives of Surgery confirms this shift for surgeons. According to the study, from 2006 to 2011, the number of surgeons in a full-time hospital employment arrangement increased by 32%. Moreover, according to the American Medical News,by the end of 2013, only 36% of the nation's projected 792,594 practicing doctors will have a practice ownership stake.
In November 2012, the American Medical Association ("AMA") House of Delegates issued new guiding principles for physicians entering into employment and contractual arrangements. The Principles expressly urge both the employer and the employee to "obtain the advice of legal counsel experienced in physician employment matters when negotiating employment contracts." All too often, well-respected attorneys who do not specialize in the field of healthcare fail to address important issues specifically related to physician employment due to their lack of expertise on the subject. Typically, the review of a proposed employment contract only involves a handful of billable hours, and the benefit of having such a review is immeasurable when considering the duration of a physician's career.