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One-Third of U.S. Physicians Plan to Quit Private Practice Within 10 Years

August 8, 2012
by Mark Hagland
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Their biggest destination: hospital employment

Fully one-third of U.S. physicians plan to leave private medical practice within the next 10 years, with a significant percentage of those doctors choosing hospital employment, according to a new nationwide survey conducted by the Atlanta-based Jackson Healthcare, a recruiting firm.

The online survey of 2,218 physicians that led to the report, “A Tough Time for Physicians: 2012 Medical Practice & Attitude Report,” found that fully 34 percent plan to leave private medical practice within the next decade. The three top reasons, as articulated in the report, were: “declining reimbursement, capitation, and unprofitable practice; business complexities and hassles; overhead and cost of doing business too high.” The practice trends survey was conducted between March 21 and April 15, 2012.

Where are they going? The top new destinations for physicians leaving private practice are, in order: “hospital employment; single- or multi-specialty practice owned by hospital or health system; independent contractor or locum tenens; non-clinical teaching position; non-clinical administration position.” (In terms of where the physicians surveyed are currently, 21 percent are in solo practice; 19 percent are in a single-specialty practice; 12 percent are in a physician-owned single- or multi-specialty practice; and 4 percent are in a non-physician-owned multi-specialty practice.)

Among those physicians planning on leaving medical practice entirely, the report cites seven top reasons physicians are leaving medicine or retiring:

> “economic factors, such as medical malpractice insurance, overhead, electronic medical records, etc.
>  “don’t want to practice in the era of healthcare reform”
>  “burned out”
>  “pursuing different paths outside the practice of medicine”
>  “lifestyle choice”
>  “age 65+”
>  “retiring early because financially able”

The Jackson Healthcare report also included and analyzed the findings of two separate surveys, one on Medicare and Medicaid trends, and the other on attitudes towards healthcare reform.

The Medicare/Medicaid survey, conducted between April 19 and April 29, 2012, found that 17 percent of physician practices are currently participating in accountable care organizations or patient-centered medical homes in 2012, while another 9 percent were planning to do so before year’s end. In contrast, 74 percent will not be participating in an ACO or medical home in 2012.

Meanwhile, the healthcare reform-related survey, conducted between May 29 and June 4, uncovered a very wide range of attitudes towards and perspectives on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the federal healthcare reform law passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in 2010.

Among those surveyed, 55 percent of physicians believed the law should be repealed, but fully 31 percent believed in contrast that only a single-payer system could achieve true healthcare reform.

And though 68 percent did not believe that the ACA would have a positive impact on the physician-patient relationship, 54 percent of respondents agreed that the new law would increase patients’ access to healthcare.

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