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Fewer Than Half of Physicians Work in Private Practice

Trend has accelerated since 2018 when 54 percent of physicians worked in private practice

a doctor with stethoscope

MONDAY, May 17, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Less than half of physicians now work in private practice, according to a report released by the American Medical Association (AMA).

As part of the AMA Policy Research Perspective series, Carol K. Kane, Ph.D., used data collected from 3,500 U.S. physicians participating in the 2020 Physician Practice Benchmark Survey.

The analysis shows that in 2020, 49.1 percent of patient care physicians worked in physician-owned practices, down from 54 percent in the 2018 AMA survey. Nearly four in 10 patient care physicians worked either directly for a hospital or for a practice with at least partial hospital or health system ownership in 2020, while 9.3 percent of patient care physicians worked directly for a hospital. There was also acceleration of a pattern toward larger practice size, with the share of physicians in practices with at least 50 physicians increasing from 14.7 percent in 2018 to 17.2 percent in 2020. Of physicians in private practice, the most common business structures were limited liability companies (27.8 percent) and S corporations (24.7 percent), followed by C corporations (15 percent).

"To what extent the COVID-19 pandemic was a contributing factor in the larger than usual changes between 2018 and 2020 is not clear," AMA President Susan R. Bailey, M.D., said in a statement. "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."

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