The professional relationship between partners in a joint medical practice is sometimes compared with a marriage. The partners must work under the same roof, share the same goals, and strive to make the practice as successful as it can be. Here are some tips for adding a new partner to your practice.
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Explore This IssueMarch 2008
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Interviewing and Contracting
During the interview process, you must develop a well-rounded picture of the candidate. Could this doctor’s skills and expertise increase the range of services offered by the practice? Does the doctor’s personality fit well with the staff and the workplace culture? Are the candidate’s long-term goals compatible with that of the existing partners and their vision for the practice? Invest a lot of time in your top candidates, and do thorough reference and background checks. Someone who aims to become a partner of your practice will have a lot of questions for you—facilities available (e.g., onsite diagnostics), payer mix, benefits (e.g., malpractice, CME, relocation), workweek, call schedule, and so on. You may also want to provide top candidates with a general idea of the practice’s gross collections, overhead costs, owners’ net incomes, and perhaps even a ballpark figure for the buy-in cost. For interested parties who may be new to your community, providing information about cost of living, community growth rates, community amenities, and schools is also a good idea.
A practice will usually hire a new doctor as an associate first and, after several years, decide whether or not to offer a partnership. Some practices provide a letter of intent, which deals with issues related to a potential future partnership, such as the intended timing of partnership and the buy-in formula. The wording of the letter may be deliberately vague to allow for changes. A letter of intent is not legally binding, but it does demonstrate good faith on the part of the practice, and offers the new physician a measure of security.
Alternately, some large practices may stipulate in their employment contracts that a physician will be offered a partnership if he or she remains employed with them for a certain period of time or up to a certain date. Although a contract is a legally binding agreement, the practice could still fire an unsatisfactory physician before the completion of the period, thus eliminating the possibility of a partnership.
The “Engagement” Period
During this time, the new physician is employed as an associate, and receives a salary and possibly incentive bonuses. The engagement period is usually two to three years, but can last anywhere from one to four years.