Blog | Thursday, September 19, 2013

QD: News Every Day--Physician practice ownership still prevalent despite rise in hospital employment

Although hospital employment by physicians is increasing, more than half of physicians were self-employed or part owners of their practices, and 60% worked in practices wholly owned by physicians, according to a white paper released by the American Medical Association.

And, 23% of physicians worked in practices that were at least partially owned by a hospital or hospital system, with 14.7% working in a wholly owned hospital practice. Another 6% worked for a not-for-profit foundation and 5.6% were directly employed by a hospital or hospital system.

Ownership was below the mean for the specialties of internal medicine (46%) and family practice (40%), figures that are similar to the year 2001 but 8 percentage points lower than in 2007/2008.

The most common type of practice arrangement among all physician types in 2012 was single specialty practice (45.5%). But, internal medicine was the only specialty in which it was not the most often cited type (just over 30%). And, 36% of internists and 28.3% of family practice physicians were in multi-specialty groups.

The report questioned what is driving the relationship between practice size and hospital ownership, and the higher rate of hospital ownership among multi-specialty physicians. In examining the issue, the white paper reported that physicians in large single specialty practices and small single specialty practices had similar rates of hospital ownership. And, for every practice size, based on the number of physicians, those in multi-specialty practices were more likely to report hospital ownership than physicians in similarly-sized single specialty practices.

It’s the wider scope of practice in multi-specialty groups, not the size, that drives hospital ownership, the report stated. And, hospitals employ primary care physicians or buy their practices to maintain a strong referral base. Hospital ownership was most often reported by internal medicine (45%) and family practice physicians (37%).

The responding physicians for the 2012 Physician Practice Benchmark Survey were drawn from a random sample of post-residency physicians who provided at least 20 hours of patient care per week, were not employed by the federal government, and who had voluntarily joined the Epocrates Honors market research panel, which stems from physicians who had downloaded free and for-sale products. The physicians receive an honorarium for joining the program.