Viewpoint: Health systems prevent patients from following physicians to new practices

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Health systems often obstruct patients from following physicians to a new practice or health system, and that's bad for patients, wrote Paul Levy, former CEO of Boston-based Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, in an op-ed for CommonWealth magazine.

This is the one issue related to healthcare consolidation that remains largely unregulated and feeds into the power of dominant health systems, according to Mr. Levy.

Typically, when a physician chooses to move practices or change affiliations, the health system takes charge of contacting patients. "The letter is written to create doubts on the part of the patients as to the reason for the doctor's departure," Mr. Levy wrote.  

When a health system and physician part ways, there are not trade secrets or intellectual property at stake, and the commercial relationship between the two was "fully compensatory in both directions," therefore hospitals do not have the right to future earnings or earning capacity of the physician, according to Dr. Levy.

"At best, it is merely inconvenient for a patient to transfer care to another doctor in such a situation. At worse [sic], such a transfer can result in a poor hand-off and poorer clinical results," Mr. Levy wrote.

He called for legislation in the state of Massachusetts to better protect patient rights related to physicians moving practices.

Read the full op-ed here.


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