It seems reports of the demise of private practice physicians may have been exaggerated. A 2012 survey of physicians by the American Medical Association (AMA) confirms there has been a shift towards physician employment, but 53.2% of physicians remain self-employed.
The number of self-employed doctors dropped 8% from the AMA’s 2007/2008 data, yet the reduction is not as dramatic as those reported in other studies. For example, a report from Accenture projected that the share of physicians in “independent practice” would fall to 36% in 2013. The AMA contends that their data is more accurate than the Accenture report and others conducted by organizations including the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) Physician Compensation and Production Survey and American Hospital Association because it represents a broader collection of physician practices.
Although the AMA’s numbers may not be as dramatic as others have indicated, the movement towards hospital employment is still a trend. In addition, the number of solo practice physicians also decreased to 18.4% in 2012, down 6% from 2007/2008. In a previous blog post, a former independent physician said decreased referrals and burdensome regulations prompted him to close his private practice and do locum tenens work as an independent contractor. He said hospitals refer patients to their employees rather than a private practice, making it hard to maintain a revenue stream.
Also, regulatory requirements, such as electronic medical records, are increasing overhead costs and making it less financially viable to be an independent practitioner.