Connections for Success



Dissension in the Ranks: How to Knock Out Physician Conflicts
Amanda Gutierrez

Unfortunately, not all doctors in physician practices get along. Whether they are disagreeing over administrative matters or a partner’s job responsibilities, the tension and disagreements can turn a normally congenial practice into a war zone. With some thought and effort, there are ways to coexist peacefully.

Many partnerships consist of one partner who leads the practice. The other physicians may have appointed this leader because the articles of incorporation require them to do so, or they did so because that physician seems like the best fit for the leadership role and has the interest to run a business.

This individual then becomes the leader of the administrative responsibilities for the practice’s daily issues. They are left holding the bag while other partners focus on issues that affect only them, not the practice as a whole. Elect a strong leader and pay a monthly compensation for handling administrative matters.

Physicians, unfortunately, downplay the importance of leadership instead of emphasizing it. Partners’ job responsibilities need to be defined so they share authoritative duties equally. Then, they need to make sure the partners are compensated for their hard work, positive outcomes they contribute to and the extra-long hours they put forth.

If a practice stagnates, it will die. Creating a vision for the practice is key to staying alive in the industry. The practice needs purpose, expectations, concerns and goals. Whether starting a new venture, adding new partners or implementing strategic changes, your partners must mutually maintain this vision.

Keep in mind challenges will occur, such as adding new services or procedures. The practice will likely encounter certain issues if it opens up a new office or hires additional staff. Such operational changes can alter your practice’s vision.

Do not expect partners to always agree; accepting change is not easy. Instead, allow each the opportunity to express his or her viewpoints. Rational professional debates are healthy as long as it does not deteriorate into heated arguments.

Age differences can also cause problems. Doctors from different generations (and cultures) often disagree about how a practice should be run, what constitutes work hours and whether senior physicians deserve preferential treatment.

Older partners may feel they have the right to make special requests of the younger partners. This may occur because the older partners themselves had to comply with such demands early in their careers. For example, having the younger doctors take on night and emergency calls instead of the older doctors could cause disagreement and friction. Therefore, partnerships typically should not provide unequal perks based on seniority.

Compensation and reimbursements can also cause stress between the partners. When reimbursements do not keep pace with operating-cost increases, partners’ stress levels may rise. Decreasing bonuses can add fuel to the fire. The financial turmoil only intensifies.

To mitigate these issues, implement a clear, amendable compensation model for the physicians to follow. Set goals and review their performances and compensation.

If your practice is experiencing these troubles, you need a committee to help you work out the issues. Ask your CPA and health care advisor to step in. They can help you work out any issues without pointing fingers and return your practice to a peaceful state.

For more information on how to ensure workplace cohesion at your health care practice, contact Amanda Gutierrez at [email protected], or call her at 312.670.7444. Visit to learn more about our Health Care Group.

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