Doctors are commonly asked by their employers to sign noncompetition agreements when they’re hired to a new position. Few patients are even aware of this possibility and what it could potentially mean to them. Nonetheless, some patients have been disturbed to realize how such agreements can directly affect them.
Colorado recently enacted a new statute affecting physicians who treat rare disorders and changing the contracts drawn up by companies that employ these medical professionals. The new law limits the power employers wield over these employees when they depart the firm and continue their practice elsewhere.
The case of the vanishing physician
A recent article from Kaiser Health News traces the stories of several patients who struggle to be treated by, or to even locate, their long-time physician after a change in employment. These “ghosted” patients and their doctors both understand the critically important concept of “continuity of care,” but their states’ employment laws have failed to get the message.
Colorado lets doctors take certain patients to new jobs
Colorado law long ago voided contract clauses that deny doctors the right to practice, even temporarily, after leaving a job. However, Colorado does allow employers to force departed doctors to pay them for the business the doctor is taking with them to the new practice. These damages must be reasonable estimates of real losses to the ex-employer.
Under one important condition, Colorado’s new law does away with a physician liability for their former employer’s loss of business when the doctor walks away with patents. The condition is that the departing physician doesn’t have to pay these damages for walking away with cases of rare disorders.
If the doctor has been treating a patient for a rare disorder, the doctor can invite the patient to come with them for continued treatment at the new practice. Even when this is in direct competition with their old employer, the doctor isn’t liable for damages. The bill delegates the decision about what counts as rare to the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD).