Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Time vs Money

There are only 2 variables that can be manipulated when determining compensation in a medical practice; time and money. There are many ways to divvy up either.

Some practices compensate all partners equally as long as the relative work performed by each doctor is equal. As long as the doctors work as hard clinically as each other and take the same number of nights on call, then the pay will be equal, though the details of this arrangement is certainly more complicated than that.

In an equal pay type of set-up, the easiest variable to manipulate is time. In a medical practice, time is spent in the following ways:
  • Clinic hours
  • Rounding/Hospital work
  • On-call
  • OR and procedure schedule
  • Administrative

The hours spent performing these necessary functions must be allocated amongst the doctors. There all all kinds of ways the schedule can be configured for someones advantage, which by definition, is someone else's disadvantage. Time in a medical practice is spent as follows:

  • Hospital rounds on Mondays vs Tuesdays vs Friday etc
  • Monday morning office hours versus Thursday evening hours vs Friday afternoon hours
  • Monday on call vs Tuesday on call vs Wednesday on call etc
  • On call Christmas versus New Years versus Thanksgiving
  • Having a first start case in the OR versus to follow cases
  • Going to administrative meetings versus working in the clinic

All these things have value. Perhaps not the same value to each individual but value nonetheless. If more than one person comes to view Monday call is more labor intensive than Tuesday call--which it is statistically--or a 7:30AM start time as more desirable than a 1PM start time, grievances will arise. You can bet that conflicts will emerge over the schedule and the manipulation of time. In fact, the person who controls the schedule becomes the most important member of the team. . .often the most hated.

I want to say one more thing about time and money. As someone ages, money tends to become more abundant than time and this often influences a person's economic decision. For example, a person with lot's of money but little time will think nothing of purchasing the most expensive plain ticket if this gets them to their destination fastest. A college student on break, with all the time in the world but no money, will usually purchase based on price rather than time.

Conversely as time becomes more scarce, money becomes more important. If time cannot be manipulated in these cases, then people start to demand variations in compensation.

Then comes conflict.