The Numerous Reasons Physician Partnerships Fail

April 6, 2015

Physicians with different personalities; who are too similar; and with varying workloads are just three reasons partnerships don't work out.

I have been very fortunate when it comes to my associate. After starting my own private practice and being solo for about a year, I hired her out of fellowship. We get along very well and have similar styles of management. It helps, of course, that I knew her long before hiring her, having been part of the faculty where she did her residency and fellowship before I went solo.

Other partnerships have not gone so well. Sometimes, the problem is a difference in work ethic. There was one practice in which two of the physicians were mothers of small children. So from time to time, they needed to leave suddenly to pick up a sick child from school or would have to deal with some other family emergency. The other physicians would cover for awhile until doctor-mom returned. Well, this did not sit well with the single physician partner. She felt it was unfair that she should pick up the slack for anyone just because they had kids. From what I hear, it didn't happen often and the work was divided equally, but it made her unhappy enough that the single physician left.

Sometimes, it's just a difference in personality. Or maybe it's because the personalities are too similar. In one office, two very strong-willed, vocal physicians partnered up. I thought it was a strange combination to begin with and was surprised when they got together. Suffice it to say, that did not end well.

Sometimes, it's because of money. In another office, one physician was doing all the procedures, and as such he brought in more revenue. However, the distribution of profits did not reflect that, and when he asked that the contracts be reviewed, he was let go. At least, that's one version of the story, but that's neither here nor there.

And sometimes, it's just insanity; fighting over stupid things. Who gets which office or which desk? Who does the staff treat better? Who do the pharma reps talk to more? One rep told me that in one office, two physicians fight over the drugs of the competing companies they speak for.

I'll say it again: I lucked out. Four years and counting. No bickering. No envy. No insanity. Well, maybe we're equally insane, that's why we still see patients.