AMA: Independent practice alive and well

While some recent headlines may give the impression that physicians are making a mad dash away from private practice toward employment, new research from the American Medical Association (AMA) reveals that the shift may be far less dramatic.

"These data show that the majority (60.7 percent) of physicians were in small practices of 10 or fewer physicians, and that practice size changed very little between 2012 and 2014 in the face of profound structural reforms to healthcare delivery," said AMA President-elect Andrew W. Gurman, M.D, in an announcement.

Other highlights of the study included the following:

  • A majority (56.8 percent) of physicians worked in practices that were wholly owned by physicians in 2014, down from 60.1 percent in 2012.
  • In 2014, 32.8 percent of physicians worked directly for a hospital or practice that had some hospital ownership, up from 29 percent in 2012.
  • The share of physicians who were practice owners dropped from 53.2 percent in 2012 to 50.8 percent in 2014.
  • The proportion of physicians who were in solo practice decreased from 18.4 percent in 2012 to 17.1 percent in 2014.

The AMA's results differ slightly from data reported by physician recruiting firm Merritt Hawkins, noted an article from MedPage Today.

"The one number that is probably significantly different from ours is they have 60.7 percent physicians in practices of 10 or fewer and our number is at around 50 percent," Travis Singleton, a senior vice president with the firm, told MedPage. "The core message of what they are saying is that independent and small practices are alive and well and a large portion of our delivery system."

Some of the differences in data sets, Singleton added, may relate to "semantics," such as the way the AMA isolates physicians in groups owned wholly by hospitals from those run by physician organizations. At the end of the day, both sets of physicians are working in an environment that operates like traditional hospital ownership, he said.

To learn more:
- read the announcement
- access the report
- see the article