Survey: Fewer Physicians Are in Private Practice

A recent survey by Accenture concludes that physicians are increasingly moving away from private practice, choosing instead to sell their practices to, or work directly for, health care systems. “Some are doing so to gain stability in an uncertain business environment or reduce their administrative responsibilities; others, to gain improved access to health care IT tools, facilities or equipment; still others, to gain a more manageable workweek,” the survey overview states. “Hospitals, for their part, are aggressively acquiring physicians to lock in physicians and secure patient volumes.”

Accenture conducted in-person and phone interviews with hospital executives and industry stakeholders September to November last year, and completed its analysis in 2011. The survey predicts that by 2013, less than one-third of physicians in the United States will remain in private practice “and patients may increasingly find that being treated by physicians in private, small practice settings may be a thing of the past.”

The survey concludes with the recommendation that physicians and groups address four key points regarding health care integration:

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  1. Health care IT, medical device, and pharmaceutical companies will need to understand the implications of proliferation of hospital-owned medical groups for their customer segmentation, go-to-market and distribution strategies.
  2. The payer sector will need to understand how to manage its client relationships and physician networks. As physicians increasingly associate with larger groups and health systems, payers will have to determine what integrated physician-hospital organizations’ greater negotiating leverage will mean for payers’ business strategies.
  3. Hospitals will want to determine how to recruit and retain enough physicians with the right skills to capitalize on high-growth-potential service lines such as cardiovascular care, orthopedics, cancer care, and radiology.
  4. Physicians must ask what alignment model will best allow them to manage the trade-offs between autonomy and employment.

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