A recent article in Medical Economics suggest for the first time in the United States, the number of employed doctors outnumbers independent physicians. The article states that 45.9% of doctors are owners of their practices which represents a 7% downshift from 2012. The most recent of those years, however, suggests that this trend is slowing.
Many small practices have been gobbled up by hospitals and large organizations that are merging to benefit from economies of scale and negotiate better contracts. This shift is resulting in increased healthcare costs, lower standards of quality care and doctors are more likely to suffer burnout. Furthermore, suicide rates among doctors now are the highest of any profession with one doctor committing suicide every single day in the United States.
Many doctors that were lured into the hospital system by attractive packages now want out but find themselves trapped because of the noncompete clauses buried in their employment contracts. The tides are turning however and doctors are finding strength in numbers forming larger independent practices and terminating hospital contracts. A recent example in Charlotte where 88 doctors left and became an independent group now known as Tryon Medical Partners.
Most doctors prefer working independently as they find this setting more professionally rewarding if the business is economically viable.
Being independent can offer rewards that stretch beyond the security of employment. Independent physicians enjoy the sense of entrepreneurship and freedom associated with having their own business with control over prescribing habits and equipment. There are many tax benefits too that help independents financially.
Independent physicians also have the freedom to choose alternate practice models that provide alternate revenue streams and attract different patients. Independent physicians are more loyal to their patients when compared to the demands of a hospital employer where quotas must be met, and hospital rules followed.
Independent Physician Associations (IPA) are supporting this shift and providing the information that physicians need to hear if they want to maintain or become independent.
What is the solution to remain independent?
The more recent advent of medical ancillaries is providing physicians with the ability to retain patients in their practice and not refer them out to other specialists or physicians. This enables the patient to stay loyal to the practice and provides a bigger slice of revenue. IPAs are also supporting practices by providing assistance navigating compliance through education and services.
Adding ancillaries can also be professionally rewarding allowing a practice to grow in expertise in different areas from diabetes care, to osteoarthritis of the knee, allergy, regenerative medicine, and pharmacy solutions.
Medical Ancillary Consultants are available who work with a practice closely to build efficiencies and reduce the number of hats a physician has to wear. These consultants are often paid via commissions from bolt-on programs and provide no direct expense or additional costs to the practice.
The benefits of working with an Ancillary Consultant is they typically understand the programs that work for a practice based on payer mix and practice type. They also consider other practice resources that include available rooms, staffing, startup costs, and ROI.
The biggest hurdle to adopting a new program is often the change in the internal processes within a practice. The evolution of turnkey programs like the Diabetes Diagnostic and Treatment Protocol and Osteoarthritis Program mean that the practice receives hands-on training to help them through the change process with a healthy financial reward. Furthermore, these programs offer significant patient benefits and improved outcomes bringing back the joy of practicing medicine as doctors see their patients improve under their care.
In my experience, there is no problem a business has that money can’t fix. If you are an independent practice facing the challenges of financial viability, looking for better work-life balance or new solutions for your patients connect with a Medical Practice Consultant and you might be surprised at the options available for your practice.