Share of physicians in private practice dips below 50%

A new analysis reveals that most physicians were not working in private practices in 2020, marking the first time this category dropped below 50%.

The analysis, conducted by the American Medical Association, revealed that 49.1% of physicians worked in private practices in 2020, down from 54% in 2018. The share of physicians working in private practice has continually declined over the last decade as practices have been snapped up by new healthcare entrants, including private equity groups. Physicians today are more likely to be working for larger practices. 

“There are several contributing factors to the ongoing shifts in practice size and ownership that include mergers and acquisitions, practice closures, physician job changes and the different practice settings chosen by younger physicians compared to those of retiring physicians,” AMA President Susan R. Bailey, MD, said in a statement.

 

The survey was conducted roughly six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, between September and October 2020. The decline in private practicing physicians from 2018 to 2020 represents the largest two-year decline since AMA began its survey in 2012. At the same time, the share of physicians in practices with at least 50 physicians also rose at its fastest rate ever––increasing from 14.7% in 2018 to 17.2% in 2020. 

The survey did not clarify how the COVID-19 pandemic affected private practices. 

“To what extent the COVID-19 pandemic was a contributing factor in the larger than usual changes between 2018 and 2020 is not clear,” Bailey said. “Physician practices were hit hard by the economic impact of the early pandemic as patient volume and revenues shrank while medical supply expenses spiked. The impact of these economic forces on physician practice arrangements is ongoing and may not be fully realized for some time.”

While more physicians worked in larger practices, 53.7% still worked in practices with 10 or fewer physicians in 2020. 

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