Depending on your point of view, competition is either the strong point or the underside of Boston's spectacular collection of hospitals and physicians. It does produce an exceptional desire to succeed, to deliver the highest levels of clinical care. But it also has the potential to be rather juvenile and wasteful of resources. But here is an unusual case where it got downright ugly and out of line.
The story is documented yesterday in a Boston Globe article written by Liz Kowalczyk. The case involves a request for a restraining order against their former hospital physician organization by two doctors who chose to join another hospital's network. Why would they need a restraining order? I have seen the court complaint. Here is a representative part:
Defendant Caritas Christi Physician Network, Inc. ... has failed and refused to send a timely notice to patients presently under the Plaintiffs’ care with respect to the change in affiliation and Plaintiffs’ new contact information. Notwithstanding this failure, Defendants have further refused to agree to remedy the situation by permitting the Plaintiffs to maintain temporary custody of their active patient files until such time as patients have been fully informed of the change and given the opportunity to continue care with Plaintiffs. Without regard to the needs of Plaintiffs’ aged and chronically ill patient population, Defendants propose to remove forthwith ... all active patient files, with the exception of those patients who have a scheduled appointment with Plaintiffs in the next two weeks. Defendants also have failed and refused to agree to ensure that Plaintiffs’ new contact information will be provided to everyone who calls that number, notwithstanding that Defendant is keeping the phone number Plaintiffs have had for over thirty years.
The judge granted the restraining order. The legal standard for a restraining order is that the moving party has "a likelihood of success on the merits of its claim and, without the requested injunction, risks suffering irreparable harm." I'll leave you to read the story, but I want to respectfully disagree with Liz's characterization in one part of it.
She notes, "The disagreement highlights the intense competition among hospitals in the Boston area to hire and retain established physicians, especially primary care physicians." Not so! This is something altogether different.
This is out and out cruelty to patients by attempting to restrict their doctors' access to them and their medical records. I can't recall any other hospital system behaving in this manner when a doctor chooses to join another network, no matter how competitive the environment.