One of the most challenging problems I encounter in representing physician practice is disruptive physician behavior. This type of behavior usually manifests in a host of unpleasant ways such as outbursts in the office or hospital, inapropriate language with office staff or patients or, perhaps most insidious, passive aggressive undermining of other physicians in the practice. It can occur for any number of reasons such as dissatisfaction with practice economics, personal issues at home, or a physician who simply never learned how to behave appropriately in a professional setting.
Whatever the reason, unless addressed promptly and effectively, disruptive physician behavior can destroy a medical practice. This behavior can lead to a lawsuits among practice partners, employment liability from employees who feel mistreated and serious reputational damage to the practice and it’s physicians.
One way to deal with disruptive physician behavior is to preempt it by adopting a physician behavior policy. Such a policy can outline a professional code of conduct within the office, establishing parameters for patient staff and professional interactions. It should ideally tie in to existing office personnel policies as well such as anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies.
Of course, to be effective, any practice policy must have teeth. Accordingly, the behavior policy should spell out clearly the potential sanctions for breach. Examples of possible sanctions could be reprimand by the practice’s governing body, a reduction in compensation, suspension or, ultimately, employment termination. Because implementation of the policy and the sanction system can potentially create legal exposure for the practice and its officers/directors, it is important that practices works closely with legal counsel to develop and implement a behavior policy.
Even in the best practices, the possibility for disruptive physician behavior to develop exists. Consider whether this important management tool make sense for your practice.