Study: Number of small practices decreasing

Physicians are increasingly practicing in single-specialty groups of six to 50 physicians, rather than the old-school groups of one or two physicians, according to new research.

A report by the Center for Studying Health System Change says the proportion of physicians in solo- and two-physician practices fell from 40.7 percent in 1996-97 to 32.5 percent in 2004-05. That's a big structural change for the industry. Another important structural change is that a growing number of physicians are giving up ownership stakes in their practices, suggesting that changes in physician pay are afoot.

Meanwhile, the study also notes that physicians aren't moving into multi-specialty practices, and that the proportion of physicians in such practices actually fell, from 30.9 percent to 27.5 percent between 1998-99 and 2004-05. That's contrary to conventional wisdom that managed care would fuel development of large multi-specialty groups to manage risk-sharing and coordination with specialists.

For more data on this trend:
- read this CSHSC press release

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