It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to most healthcare consumers that many Independent Physicians have been lured away from private practice to fulltime employment at hospitals and large healthcare systems throughout the country.
This trend has been ongoing for many years as physicians have given up their independence for a steady income. Unfortunately for American healthcare consumers this is not good news as healthcare costs have been driven higher while receiving lower quality care. For physicians who become employed by hospitals and large healthcare systems they are being subjected to higher burnout rates than those in independent practice due in part to being subjected to high productivity standards and quotas demanded by a hospital or healthcare system. According to Blue Cross and Blue Shield the burnout rate for employed physicians in Montana is the sixth highest in the country. In 2018, The American Psychiatric Association revealed a report that showed the suicide rate among Doctors is the highest of any profession in the country.
So why do hospitals and health systems continue to consume independent practices?
The rationale seems pretty obvious – it’s all about the money.
- Increasing their overall revenue helps grow their bottom line.
- Increasing and capturing a larger market share leads to increased market power.
- The larger the market power the better their bargaining position is with healthcare insurers.
- Larger market share means more patients and increased facility fee charges, which are the added costs hospitals charge for outpatient services, that independent doctors don’t charge.
- Lastly, they are able to drive more referrals into their system squeezing out the independent practices.
So, you may be asking yourself why this all matters, but when hospitals and health systems gain control of a market, they create a healthcare monopoly and limit your choice to actively participate in your family’s healthcare needs and decisions. Now more than ever what healthcare consumers are seeking is high quality, patient focused care at an affordable cost. Independent practices continue to deliver that type of care for healthcare consumers and their families, which is why they are such a critical part of our healthcare system.
While the trend towards doctors becoming employees of hospitals and health systems continues, there is some good news on the horizon, it has slowed. In fact, many Doctors are leaving hospital employment at record rates. As we take a closer look at the trends, we begin to understand that there is a definite negative impact to the overall healthcare system due to these mergers as healthcare costs continue to rise, the quality of care received is lowered and consumer choice is all but limited.
Keep this in mind when you’re looking for a healthcare provider - Independent healthcare practices operate unencumbered and have a common objective which is to improve the quality of care they provide patients and the desire to make health care affordable.