Prior to signing a contract, you need to make sure that you are comfortable with the terms and agreements in the contract. Whether you have a lawyer who specializes in physician contracts looking over your contract, or you are negotiating on your own, make sure to have these questions answered.

Ten Questions to Ask

  1. How many people have been in this job before, who are they, and may I talk to them?
  2. Are there any relatives in the practice? If so, what is their scope of duties, and what are the checks and balances for them?
  3. Ask about incoming guarantees, incentive structures, buy-in structures, and especially the long-term potential for the position. The income guarantee is not as important as the incentive structure, and the incentive structure is not as important as the buy-in structure, and all of that is not as important as the potential 5 to 10 years down the road.
  4. How are the patients assigned?
  5. Talk to the office staff, ancillary staff, and other members of the medical community about the practice you are thinking of joining.
  6. Do I have any financial obligations if I leave before or at the end of my contract? Who is responsible for the tail coverage?
  7. Know what your academy guidelines are for physician-to-patient population ratios and how that compares to the locations.
  8. If I am on call, what is the probability of being called?
  9. If I am being hired to replace a retiring physician, is the retirement date set in stone? Is the practice under a financial obligation to buy out the retiring physician?
  10. If they are offering more money than anyone else, make sure you know the real reason why.

You have the right to ask questions and receive answers that are satisfactory to you. The answer might be one you do not want to hear, but it should be straightforward and honest. You want to make sure that these questions, and any others that you may have, are answered prior to signing. It is important to make sure that you do not assume what an answer may be or ignore your questions because your contract is a legally binding document. The contract can dictate the next year(s) of your professional and personal life.