Doctors ready to explore new practice models to stay independent

Nearly half of independent physicians expect to sell their practices in the near future, but not because they want to, according to a new survey.

Doctors want to remain independent, but many don’t expect that to be a reality, according to the survey by ProCare Systems, which released its 2015 Independent Physician Outlook Survey. The survey found 73 percent of respondents said they would prefer to remain independent assuming their practices could be reliably profitable and sustainable. But 44 percent said they are likely to sell their practice at some point in the next 10 years, the survey found.

Physicians said escalating costs and falling reimbursement were their biggest challenges and were the factors most likely to lead them to sell their practices. One in 4 physician practices are now hospital-owned, with 38 percent of U.S. physicians now employed by hospitals and health systems, according to one analysis.

At the same time, doctors are looking for new solutions in order to remain independent. “Given the staggering majority of physicians that desire continued independence, the findings in this survey indicate that we cannot continue with ‘business as usual’ in our standard practice models,” Fred Davis, M.D., co-founder and president of ProCare Systems, said in the report. Physicians can survive independently by embracing innovative business models, he said.

Nearly all of the physicians surveyed (94 percent) said the marketplace needs to offer new practice models. And doctors are ready to explore new models, with 51 percent interested in innovative business models and capital structures in order to stay independent. Among the new models, the survey found:

  • 49 percent of respondents said being a part of an independent practice association, in which physician practices form an alliance, was attractive for the increased scale it would provide in negotiating with payers and larger organized systems of care
  • 28 percent were interested in a practice management or shared equity model that allows physicians groups to operate independently while sharing equity in a combined entity
  • 23 percent were interested in pursuing mergers and acquisitions with other practice groups to achieve scale and increase their leverage with providers and insurers