In my years as a practicing physician, I learned that every patient requires and deserves follow-up care. Interestingly, this principle also applies to us, the physicians under contract. I’ve come to understand that every physician’s employment contract is a living document, subject to changes, whether they are intentional or unintentional.
Physician contract lawyers play pivotal roles in contract negotiation, but from my experience, their value can often diminish once the contract is signed. As someone who’s been down this road, I want to share my insights to help you navigate this complex process.
Ongoing physician contract negotiation has become a specialized art with its own intricacies. Although most contract lawyers want to help, they don’t always have the necessary tools, resources, or motivation to get the physician the best deal. Like any other professional, they prefer to stay firmly in their lane, the law. and no one can blame them.
Unmasking the Role of Physician Contract Lawyers: Essential, Yet Not All-Encompassing
The definition of a physician contract lawyer is simple. Physician contract lawyers help negotiate, draft, review, and manage physician contracts. Technically, they are hired for private legal proceedings, in this case, a physician contract, so that the business transaction, which is your employment, stays within the law.
Physician contract lawyers can draw up contracts, advise, and defend you as the client or in this case, the employee. They do have the duty to research and analyze the likely outcome for you. Still, they tend to remain dedicated to staying within the law rather than negotiating the financial aspects, which they expect you to do, or someone who advises you to do. Some may ask, “Are you okay with this deal?”
A good analogy of contract law that is similar to physician contracts is real estate law. The real estate lawyer will focus like a laser on the legal aspects of deeds, insurance, property lines, city and county ordinances, and the list goes on. A real estate lawyer may offer some opinions and have some knowledge about values, costs, and prices. Still, they may be limited in their knowledge base, particularly if the property has special features or the location is new or changing. They are great when it comes to closing.
However, do not accept at face value that a physician contract lawyer knows everything there is to know about your physician contract and situation. There will be things he or she will learn along with you. They want to help you close the deal, but how the deal is negotiated or whether it is fair or reasonable is still your call, not theirs.
This is not to say you don’t need a physician contract lawyer. Not at all. They are an essential part of the process in both signing a contract and ongoing renegotiation. The physician contract lawyer will ascertain the facts, and interpret laws, rulings, regulations, and contract changes in your area of expertise. They are vital to the communication process with you, your employer, and any other legal entities involved, such as the medical licensing board or other parties that may be concerned.
Physicians, Take Charge of Your Contractual Future
Most physicians now need to go beyond their physician contract lawyers. They need more and deserve more.
There is significant value in staying informed. Every physician relates to this every time they practice. There is always a race to keep up with the latest methods in the changing practice of medicine. Industry trends and changes in physician contracts and compensation are no different.
The difference for most physicians comes down to two main issues: time and access. Most, if not all, physicians just don’t have the time. They are so busy taking care of patients, dealing with outpatient “fires,” and struggling to be on time for those required meetings that there isn’t time left in the day. Sure, many physicians glance at some emails detailing physician data collection, but most don’t spend the necessary time for true analysis. Getting the right timely and relevant data can be challenging if that is not enough; many sources publish data from a year ago, which is already outdated. Also, the data doesn’t consider your particular situation or circumstances.
There is a role for continuous learning and adaptation in managing and maximizing compensation. It has become an art, and just about every physician needs help. It is one of the most essential methods of proactively managing your current and future financial situations. As nice and reasonable as your employer seems, they still work in their best interests, not yours. The goal is not to become an adversary with your employer but instead a mutual partner.
Physician Compensation Review Experts: The Missing Piece
The specialized expertise offered by physician compensation review experts is singular. Using the analogy of a real estate transaction, physician compensation review experts provide invaluable resources, information, and advice, just like a good realtor. Physician compensation review experts know more than just the basic foundation of the contract; they have experience helping other physicians nationally. They provide the extra energy needed to make your contract negotiation the most effective it can be. The best way to look at it is they outperform traditional physician contract lawyers in areas where lawyers either can’t or won’t.
The nature of physician contract negotiation has transformed in older medical practices over recent years from a handshake to a formal legal agreement with large corporations. As physicians, we lack access to in-depth knowledge and expertise regarding specific physician needs and industry trends. Physician contract review experts now play a unique role, providing industry-specific knowledge and experience.
Physician contract lawyers are indispensable and necessary, and sure, they can help resolve disputes and make arrangements for resolution. Still, the physician has to know what to ask for, and it needs to be within industry standards.
Here is where physician compensation review specialists shine, providing the tools and information needed to make informed decisions based on reality, not what a physician wishes for, which may need to be more realistic and practical. The right compensation review expert will also negotiate your contract for you.
Choosing the Right Expert for Your Compensation Review
There are many out there, but only one company, Contract Diagnostics, focuses all its efforts on physician contract review and nothing else. Finding the right expert for compensation and contract review means looking for the best information and a 360-degree view of your unique circumstances.
Every physician is an individual with their own distinctive journey. There is no reason to use the best resources available regarding financial security.
Contract Diagnostics will review your salary, signing incentives (signing bonus, stipends, loans, relocation), and all bonus structures (wRVU, collections, quality, performance, citizenship, etc.), plus your total benefits. Your malpractice insurance will be straightforward, and your obligations during and after your agreement will be understood.
Being experts in compensation review and not lawyers, they will explore market norms and trends and be able to explain pay discrepancies when your physician contract lawyer simply cannot. They will review any restrictions, non-competes, interference, solicitation clauses, and your obligations for termination.
Physician contract negotiation begins and ends with the best team approach.
There are many important lessons to learn during your physician’s career. Some of these will be by your choice, and some will not. The most successful outcomes will come with the best preparation, prevention, and tools.
The physician contract lawyer remains one of the required mechanisms to get things done when beginning or renegotiating a new or ongoing physician contract. The additional benefit of experts in contract review services brings everything to a new level.
Let lawyers do the lawyering, and compensation review experts do what they do best: get you what you deserve.
Learn about us at Contract Diagnostics. We are committed to helping physicians maximize and exceed their expectations regarding their compensation and benefits in whatever career path they have chosen.
About the Author
Dr. Drew Sutton, MD, is a seasoned physician with years of experience in the medical field. Now retired, Dr. Sutton shares his insights and wisdom to help guide younger physicians through the complexities of contract reviews and negotiations.
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