Private practices across Texas face the same threats as their larger counterparts: successive physician pay cuts, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and rising inflation. But they lack access to the same resources when dealing with them.
The Texas Medical Association is dedicated to helping them keep their doors open, which led to the formation of a new Ad Hoc Committee on Independent Physician Practice, says Sue Bailey, MD, who co-chairs the committee
“Texas can’t rest on its laurels anymore thinking, ‘Oh, independent physician practice is safe.’ It’s not, and this ad hoc committee is desperately needed,” said Dr. Bailey, an allergist and immunologist in Fort Worth and a past president of TMA and the American Medical Association.
Between 2019 and 2020, more than 48,000 physicians left independent practice, according to a recent study by the Physicians Advocacy Institute (PAI). Nearly half of those physicians made the switch after the onset of the pandemic, which has only accelerated the shift toward employment underway for years.
The report also found that the trend of physicians leaving independent practice is more pronounced in southern states, which over the same period saw the highest increases in physician employment (28.7%) and in acquisitions of independent practices by hospitals and other corporate entities (15.4%).
The Ad Hoc Committee on Independent Physician Practice is charged with defining “independent physician practice” and identifying the needs of that group in hopes of addressing them. TMA member physicians can complete a short survey about their most pressing practice issues on the TMA website.
“Our main goal is to help TMA identify … what strategies there are that can help patients stay with independent practices,” said Tony Aventa, MD, an internist in Austin and co-chair of the committee. He also is a past president of the Travis County Medical Society.
Over the coming months, Dr. Bailey is hopeful the committee can identify solutions for a wide swath of problems and practice types.
“TMA can help in terms of providing resources for students, residents, and young physicians to see independent practice as a viable and attractive option. And to provide resources to physicians who have been in more integrated, regulated practice settings that want out, that want to be able to practice independently, and to give them the tools that they need to make a soft landing when they make that choice,” she said.
In the meantime, Dr. Bailey commends TMA for creating the committee, which she said is needed to ensure independent practices retain their place in Texas’ health care system.
“It would be a very, very sad day for medicine if there weren’t independent practices available for physicians to practice the way they choose and for patients to choose physicians who practice in the way that’s best for them,” she said.