Private practice medicine will soon become extinct

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.

Today, there’s too much bureaucratic paperwork and insurance hassles to deal with. Combined with increasing costs and downward pressures of reimbursement, doctors are loathe to take a risk of essentially running a business in this toxic environment.

Some are puzzled by this. Dr. Gordon Hughes, chairman of the board of trustees for the Indiana State Medical Association, says, “When I was young, you didn’t blink an eye at being on call all the time, going to the hospital, being up all night. But the young people coming out of training now don’t want to do much call and don’t want the risk of buying into a practice, but they still want a good lifestyle and a big salary. You can’t have it both ways.”

Lifestyle matters. More doctors are entering the workforce seeking part-time jobs in order to maintain a family balance. By removing the administrative hassles from their plate, they can go back to focusing solely on practicing medicine and coming home at a reasonable hour.

There is a downside, of course. By divorcing new doctors, already naive to the business of medicine, from administration, they are going to have less clout in the decisions that affect their professional futures.

But that’s a trade off that some would make in order to have a more balanced lifestyle, which makes the private practice physician a species growing slowly extinct.