While a recent report from athenahealth indicated that 81 percent of surveyed physicians regard independent practices as endangered, a separate survey from medical reference website MDLinx found that more than a quarter of small-practice physicians already are thinking about closing their doors.
According to the poll of 673 physicians across 29 specialties, 26 percent of respondents from groups with 10 or fewer physicians said they foresee closing their practices within the next year, a sentiment shared by 17 percent of surveyed doctors overall. Other findings included the following:
- A third (32 percent) of smaller-practice physicians predicted 2012 would be one of their worst earning years ever versus 13 percent of physicians at larger practices or hospitals
- More than half (53 percent) of smaller-practice doctors reported suffering a cut in their personal pay versus 32 percent of larger-practice and hospital-based physicians
- Nearly half (49 percent) of small practices reported cutting back personnel and services
- About a quarter (23 percent) of small-practice physicians used personal savings to cover practice operating expenses
- A fifth (20 percent) of small-practice physicians borrowed money to cover operating expenses
Although the survey did not ask physicians to name reasons for their financial struggles, top factors include medical school debt, rising business expenses, shrinking insurance reimbursements, expensive malpractice insurance and time spent on administrative hassles, CNNMoney reported. In addition, Medscape Medical News calculated that 56 percent of respondents reported that Medicare and Medicaid payments provided 75 percent of their income. If the scheduled 27 percent reduction in Medicare payments takes effect next year, 61 percent of respondents said they would be forced to make additional cuts in services, and nearly 7 percent said they would have to close their practices, Medscape reported.