"Patient poaching" in the ED

January 4, 2008

Our community hospital recently opened some offices staffed by newly-recruited family physicians. Now, some of my patients who received care at the hospital's ED say that doctors there tried to refer them to these new physicians for follow-up care. Aren't there laws against poaching another doctor's patients?

Our community hospital recently opened some offices staffed by newly-recruited family physicians. Now, some of my patients who received care at the hospital's ED say that doctors there tried to refer them to these new physicians for follow-up care. Aren't there laws against poaching another doctor's patients?

No, it's perfectly legal for a doctor to suggest that a patient go to another physician. And if the hospital insists that the ED physicians refer within the hospital group, that's legal too.

However, such a policy isn't very smart if it alienates the attending staff whom the hospital depends on. If you have privileges there, you should definitely present your concerns about "patient poaching" to the hospital's medical staff executive committee. Press for a policy that requires the ED staff to ask whether the patient has a primary care physician; if not, they can suggest someone from the hospital group.

In this issue, the answers to our readers' questions were provided by: Barry B. Cepelewicz, MD, JD, Meiselman, Denlea, Packman, Carton & Eberz, White Plains, NY; Margaret Davino, JD, Kaufman Borgeest & Ryan, New York City; Alice G. Gosfield, JD, Alice G. Gosfield and Associates, Philadelphia, PA; H. Christopher Zaenger, CHBC, Z Management Group, Barrington, IL.

Send your practice management questions to: PMQA Editor, Medical Economics, 123 Tice Blvd., Woodcliff Lake, NJ 07677-7664, or send an e-mail to mepractice@advanstar.com (please include your regular postal address).