A longtime physician at Indiana University Health claims he was demoted and later terminated after he objected to a directive to keep each patient’s visit to 10 minutes or less.
Dr. Brian Leon, an internal medicine specialist at IU Health’s primary care facility near University Hospital, filed a complaint this month in Marion County Superior Court.
He is suing Indiana University Health Care Associates Inc., doing business as IU Health Physicians, a large medical practice of primary and specialty care doctors that operates as a joint venture between IU Health and the IU School of Medicine.
The lawsuit claims breach of contract, unpaid wages, fraudulent misrepresentation and numerous other claims.
An IU Health spokesman said he could not comment on pending litigation. The hospital system has filed to move the case to U.S. District Court in Indianapolis.
In his complaint, Dr. Leon claims IU Health Physicians suffered annual deficits of more than $200 million between 2016 and 2018. In response, IU Health transferred more than $700 million during that period to cover the deficits.
As a result of the economic losses, the leadership of IU Health Physicians’ primary care unit pressured doctors to see as many patients as possible, the lawsuit alleges.
To do that, they set a time goal of ten minutes per patient, per visit, according the lawsuit. That included time spent reviewing a patient’s records, test results, labs and notes; visiting with the patient; placing orders; and completing and entering the write-up after the patient’s visit, the complaint says.
Dr. Leon said he expressed his judgment that 10 minutes was “woefully inadequate and inappropriate for his patients’ highly complex illnesses,” the complaint said.
He added it was inconsistent with the medical practice’s directive, the Hippocratic Oath, patients’ rights and the customs of physicians board-certified in internal medicine, where 20- to 30-minute return visits and 40- to 60-minute new visits were traditional.
In response, Dr. Leon alleges, the leadership of IU Health Physicians relieved him of his position as medical director of the south central region, and local leader of the Indianapolis medical practice.
That was despite high ratings throughout his career, Dr. Leon said in his complaint.
“Throughout his more than 23-year career with (with IU Health Physicians), Dr. Leon cheerfully and enthusiastically focused on caring for his nearly 2,000 patients and teaching” at the IU School of Medicine, the complaint says.
The demotion was followed by a “nonrenewal letter” of his contract in October 2020 that Dr. Leon said amounted to a termination. He is now working as assistant medical director at Community Health Network, according to his LinkedIn page.
Dr. Leon said he was subjected to a hostile work environment “in an effort to demote and get rid of him.” That included efforts to inflict “great humiliation” upon him by making him stand in a hallway one day while leadership discussed his performance.
The reason for the hostility, Dr. Leon claims, was in part due his pushing back against the mandate for short visits with patients.
He said leadership directed him to “keep his mouth closed,” “sit on his hands,” keep his ideas to himself and do what he was told, the complaint said.