74% of physicians are hospital or corporate employees, with pandemic fueling increase

The percentage of U.S. physicians employed by hospitals, health systems or corporate entities grew from 62.2 percent in January 2019 to 73.9 percent as of January 2022, according to new data from Avalere in a study sponsored by the Physicians Advocacy Institute.

In January 2021, 69.3 percent of physicians were employed by hospitals, health systems or corporate entities, according to the study.

Avalere researchers cited the COVID-19 pandemic as a contributing factor to the trend. They found that 108,700 additional physicians became employees of hospitals or other corporate entities since January 2019, with 83,000 of that shift taking place after the pandemic began. 

"COVID-19 drove physicians to leave private practice for employment at an even more rapid pace than we've seen in recent years, and these trends continued to accelerate in 2021," Physicians Advocacy Institute CEO Kelly Kenney said in an April 18 news release. "This study underscores the fact that physicians across the nation are facing severe burnout and strain. The pressures of the pandemic forced many independent physicians to make difficult decisions to sell their practices to hospitals, health insurers or other corporate entities."

Researchers said acquisitions by hospitals and other corporate entities, such as private equity firms and health insurers, also are contributing factors.

Avalere found that hospitals and other corporate entities acquired 36,200 additional physician practices over the three-year period. That resulted in a 38 percent increase in the percentage of hospital or corporate-owned practices, from 38.9 percent in January 2019 to 53.6 percent in January 2022.

The study is based on data from IQVIA, a provider of advanced analytics, technology solutions and clinical research services . The data includes practices ranging from solo physicians to those with multiple specialties and locations. More information about the study is available here.

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