By Terry Bauer, CEO, Specialdocs Consultants
As we commemorate our country’s long-ago fight for freedom this Fourth of July, it’s an appropriate time to recognize the more subtle, but no less important battle being fought to preserve physician autonomy in our country. In a landscape that’s come to be dominated by health systems and physician-employed models, caring for patients in an independent practice is rapidly becoming another victim of the big box era.
“2018 marked the first year in which there were fewer physician owners (45.9%) than employees (47.4%).” – American Medical Association (AMA) Physician Practice Benchmark Survey
While we respect the AMA’s accompanying caution not to assume current trends will continue indefinitely, the fact remains that the healthcare industry has been slowly and inexorably moving toward this outcome for some time. In 1983, 76% of doctors were self-employed. That figure has declined by a third. Digging deeper into the data only points to the strength of the trend, as younger physicians are opting for the perceived safety of employment in a large organization or health system at almost twice the rate of those over 55.1
I’m not suggesting we turn back the clock or pursue models that may no longer be sustainable in today’s tumultuous medical environment. But I am urging all involved in the healthcare system to consider what’s being lost by abandoning the privilege of practicing independently.
There is much at stake in recognizing and rewarding the enormous value of this type of care before it disappears irretrievably. It’s why we believe so fervently in our company’s work to transition independent practitioners to the concierge medicine model as a genuine solution. The effect is exponential, with tens of thousands of patients of our Specialdocs physicians reaping the benefits of personalized care each year, a number that continues to rise.
“If you want to be a primary care physician today in a traditional fee for service model, you have to limit the time you’re seeing patients so you see enough people in a day that the employer will keep you on.
“I need to guide my patients through the stages of their lives in a way they feel I’m marching in step with them. With concierge medicine, I can pursue my passion without worrying my livelihood or family will be harmed. I’m able to be patient-focused now and I never would have been able to say that before.” – Adam Rubinstein, MD, concierge physician and Specialdocs client.
Autonomy is at the heart of eliminating physician burnout, still reported at unacceptably high levels of 48-49% for those in family practice or internal medicine in the most recent industry survey.2
Even the most well-intentioned programs to address burnout can’t work without that crucial element, which acknowledges each doctor’s driving desire to choose how to care for their patients and for themselves. It’s not surprising that research continues to suggest that independent doctors are happier than their employed colleagues and less likely to burn out.3
For an independent concierge physician, the difference is profound, marked by freedom from endless documentation and the demand to input data, concerns over lower reimbursement rates and the ability to meet overhead expenses, and the steady drumbeat of worry over rushed, superficial patient visits.
A Specialdocs-designed membership model opens previously-shut doors by restoring the time to pursue individual passions, whether that’s exploring advanced research and promising new technology or mentoring the next generation of physicians. Most importantly, a Specialdocs-affiliated concierge physician has the opportunity to create a vibrant life outside of work, becoming immeasurably enriched by time spent with partners, family, friends and community.
Our Specialdocs clients, a fiercely and proudly independent group of dedicated physicians, frequently use words like “grateful,” “joyful” and “rejuvenated” to describe their post-transition mindset. Preserving a physician’s right to practice medicine inspired by their own deeply-personal vision of care is why we established Specialdocs more than 17 years ago, and what will always define our path going forward.
If you are interested in learning more about this uniquely-rewarding approach to remaining independent, please contact us.
Have a very happy Independence Day!
1. Nearly 70% of physicians under age 40 were employees in 2018, compared to 38.2% of physicians age 55 and over: AMA 2018 Physician Practice Benchmark Survey
2. Advisory Board Daily Briefing, Jan. 18, 2019
3. The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, July 2018
Terry Bauer is the CEO of Specialdocs Consultants. Terry’s vision of concierge medicine as an innovative and sustainable model for healthcare’s future began in 1999 when he first learned of the business from industry pioneers, and his interest in the sector continued to grow over the years. Learn more about Terry.