Most Doctors Continue to Work at Physician-Owned Practices
To hear most doctors tell it, the days of the autonomous, independent-thinking and –acting physician are at an end with most medical practitioners now working for “the man.” That may be true, but more often than not, “the man” is another physician.
A new report out from the American Medical Association adds some much-needed objectivity to the charged rhetoric over who controls the medical profession. As it turns out, it’s still doctors.
In a 15-page Policy Research Perspectives brief released by the AMA last week, the association said 55.8 percent of physicians worked at medical practices last year that were owned by physicians. That’s down one percentage point from 2014, when 56.8 percent of doctors worked at physician-owned medical practices.
The figures are based on a survey of a representative sample of 3,500 physicians conducted by the AMA in 2014 and 2016. The association conducted a similar survey of 3,466 doctors in 2012.
Also as it turns out, neither is “the man” a hospital or hospital system gobbling up physician practices. The report said the percentage of doctors working in medical practices owned in whole or in part by hospitals or hospital systems or working directly for a hospital or hospital system as an employee was unchanged between 2014 and 2016. The percentage each year was 32.8 percent.
The AMA offered little perspective in its Perspectives or in its release other than to say: “Patients benefit when physicians practice in settings they find professionally and personally rewarding, and the AMA strongly supports a physician’s right to practice in the setting of their choice.”
However, the AMA’s choice of a headline on its press release and brief hinted at another finding from the survey that the association wants the industry and the public to know. And that’s that for the first time less than half of the doctors working at a medical practice have an ownership stake in the practice. Instead, just as many work there as employees.
Some 47.1 percent of the surveyed physicians had an ownership stake in their medical practice last year, down from 50.8 percent in 2014 and 53.2 percent in 2012. Meanwhile, the percent of surveyed doctors working at their medical practice as employees rose to 47.1 percent last year, up from 43 percent in 2014 and 41.8 percent in 2012.