How noncompete clauses can sever patient-provider relationships

Noncompete clauses, which are becoming more common in healthcare, can often drive a wedge between providers and their patients, reports The New York Times.

Four things to know:

1. Noncompete clauses seek to prevent departing physicians from taking patients with them to a new or competing practice. A 2018 survey of 1,967 primary care physicians across five states found about 45 percent of respondents had noncompete clauses in their contracts.

2. For patients, physicians who leave their practices under a noncompete clause "seem to simply disappear," according to NYT. The physicians' former practices often refuse to tell patients where their physicians went. Sometimes, patients who track down their physician's new practice may not be admitted because of terms outlined in the noncompete clause.

3. Many physicians claim such clauses disrupt continuity of care, which can be crucial for patients with consistent medical issues.

"To the extent that these agreements disrupt continuity of care and disrupt patient choice, this is of great concern to the [American Medical Association]," Patrice Harris, MD, president-elect of the AMA, told NYT.

4. NYT cited a recent Trump Administration report that recommends states assess how noncompete clauses affect patients' access to care. Some states, like Massachusetts and Colorado, permit noncomplete clauses in employment contracts, but don't typically enforce them against physicians. In Texas, noncompete agreements must allow physicians access to a list of their former patients and their medical records.

To view the full report, click here.

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