Most physicians go into medicine with the goal the helping others; however this is not enough to sustain financial and emotional health for the physician. In recent years, there has been increasing attention drawn to poor work-life balance and job dissatisfaction as causes for physician burnout, and how physician burnout negatively impacts patient care. These problems can start as early as the contract.
The primary goal of employers is to maximize the physician productivity and increase their benefit-to-cost ratio for each physician they employ. Often wordy and heavy in legal jargon, physician contracts are daunting undertakings to review and understand. They will often include clauses that will allow employers to control physician workflow, while limiting the cost of physician compensation. Furthermore while it is technically illegal to directly control physician decisions on patient care, it is not uncommon for employers to employ system modifications and contract clauses that will indirectly affect physician control over medical decision making. Maximizing physician job satisfaction and compensation are generally not major focuses, as once the contract is signed there is very little room for further negotiation.
Since most residencies do not train resident physicians on how to negotiate and review physician contracts, it is not surprising that many physicians struggle with understanding their contracts. Most physicians get by with trial and error. Nonetheless, it is essential for physicians to learn to understand physician contracts as they determine physician role and compensation, physician workflow in patient care and billing, and indirectly affect physician work-life balance. In addition, this knowledge can also be leveraged to help with negotiations and develop strategies to maximize physician revenue within the confines of the contract.