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The End Of Private Practice?

I didn’t need the Wall Street Journal to tell that the days of “private practice” are numbered. According to recent numbers, fewer and fewer medical practices are under the ownership of physicians. Even in my corner of the economically secure State of Texas, small practices are folding faster than beach chairs at high tide.

I was driven out of private practice in 2004 by rising malpractice premiums and plummeting reimbursement. In Texas at the time the trial attorneys ran the place and medmal insurance carriers simply couldn’t keep up with the greed.

Medical practices are just too expensive to run and the services that physicians provide are dangerously undervalued. You do the math. Sure it’s a complicated issue. But the end result is institutionally-employed doctors with institutional pay and the risk of institutional service. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at 33 Charts*

Hospitals: Check Doctor’s Communication Skills Before Buying The Practice

Hospitals today are aggressively buying physician practices in their local markets. Why? Hospitals want to solidify their referral base for inpatient and outpatient referrals as well as increase their negotiating power with insurance companies.

Over 50% of physician practices are now owned by hospitals according to the Medical Group Management Association. As such, many one-time private practitioners are now hospital employees.

Having done physician recruitment in a prior life, I know that before buying a practice that hospitals look at a variety of things including the practice’s patient volume, number of hospital referrals, estimates of patient turnover, and so on. One of the things we did not consider years ago in evaluating and buying a physician practice was the quality of the physician’s patient communication skills and supporting practices. I doubt that things have changed much since. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Mind The Gap*

Private Practice Medicine To Be A Thing Of The Past

I’ve written previously that the days of the private practice physician are numbered. A detailed piece from the New York Times confirms the exodus.

Young doctors who are burdened with medical school debt exceeding $150,000 are opting for the financial stability that a salary from a hospital-owned practice, or a large integrative medical center, can bring. Gone are the days where a solo practitioner can hang a shingle and practice in a small office, or in days past, a room adjoining their home.

Read more here: Private practice medicine will soon become extinct.

*This blog post was originally published at*

Independent Primary Care: The “Loss Leader” Of Medicine

Medicare’s sustainable growth rate, or SGR, has been the bane of doctors for years now. To encapsulate, this is the reason for Medicare’s annual threat to cut doctors’ fees by 20% or more, only to be staved off at the last minute.

Emergency physician Shadowfax has a nice take on it, explaining why it has devastated primary care:

Primary care has many fixed expenses in addition to those we bear: they pay rent, nurses and techs and secretaries, healthcare costs for their employees, equipment, scheduling software, etc etc. The fixed costs portion of a typical office practice can be much higher, consuming 60-80% of gross revenue. Worse, many of these “fixed costs” for primary care are not truly fixed, but increase annually consistent with inflation.

I wrote several years ago that primary care is the “cheap DVD” of the medical profession — a loss leader to bring people in the door for more lucrative services. Shadowfax agrees, arguing that it’s unlikely there will be any independent primary care practices in the near future:

I predict that, if nothing else changes in the overall model of physician reimbursement, within a decade there will be almost no independent primary care left in existence — they will all have been subsumed into hospital-owned or group practices to serve as “loss leaders,” existing solely to drive referrals to profit centers like surgical services and imaging facilities.


*This blog post was originally published at*

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