New data released this week confirm what you probably already know: More and more physicians are working for hospitals, which continue to buy up independent practices.
According to Avalere Health and the Physicians Advocacy Institute (PAI), hospitals and health systems acquired 8,000 medical practices nationwide between July 2016 and January 2018. Also during those 18 months, 14,000 physicians left private practice for employment arrangements with hospitals, the numbers show.
The latest figures are part of an ongoing study by Avalere Health, a health care consulting firm, and PAI, a not-for-profit organization that works to advance fair and transparent policies in the health care system. The Texas Medical Association is a PAI charter member.
Over the full study period, hospitals aggressively pursued acquisitions of physician practices, growing from 35,700 hospital-owned practices in July 2012 to 80,000 in January 2018. During the same time, the share of U.S. physicians employed by hospitals or health systems rose from about 25 percent in 2012 to 44 percent in 2018.
“The continued trend of hospital-driven consolidation is dramatically reshaping the health care system” said Robert Seligson, PAI’s president and CEO of the North Carolina Medical Society.
The findings are in line with trends in physician employment and hospital acquisitions and mergers in Texas, which were featured in the February edition of Texas Medicine magazine.
According to TMA’s 2016 Survey of Texas Physicians, the number of Texas physicians in solo practice fell from 44 percent in 2012 to 26 percent in 2016. Over the same time period, those who became group practice employees rose from 13 percent to 24 percent, and those who became hospital employees rose from 4 percent to 8 percent.
The survey also found that younger physicians may not prefer solo practice. Fifty percent of Texas doctors 40 and younger worked either for a hospital or group practice, twice the percentage of those 51 and older.
The Texas Medicine story was published before two of Texas’ biggest hospital systems called off their planned merger. Earlier this month, Baylor Scott & White Health in Dallas and Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston canceled the proposed $14 billion deal. Together, the two systems provide services in more than 30 Texas counties and employ more than 73,000 people, according to data released by Memorial Hermann.