Physician-owned private practices are drying up: AMA

Between 2012 and 2022, physicians working in private practices decreased by 13 percent, an American Medical Association report found.

The analysis argues that the declining physician ownership trend will continue unless Medicare payment reform considers the costs physicians face with running a medical practice.

"The AMA analysis shows that the shift away from independent practices is emblematic of the fiscal uncertainty and economic stress many physicians face due to statutory payment cuts in Medicare, rising practice costs and intrusive administrative burdens," AMA President Jesse Ehrenfeld, MD, said in a July 12 news release. "Practice viability requires fiscal stability." 

Here are five other findings:

  • The percentage of physicians working in practices with fewer than 10 physicians fell from 61.4 percent in 2012 to 51.8 percent in 2022. Meanwhile, the percentage of physicians working in practices with 50 or more physicians grew by about 5 percent.

  • In 2022, only 44 percent of physicians owned their own practice, compared with 76 percent in the early 1980s.

  • About 80 percent of physicians said the ability to negotiate higher payment rates with insurance companies influenced their decision to sell their practice, as well as the need to efficiently handle regulatory and administrative requirements from payers.

  • The number of physicians younger than 45 who were self-employed decreased by 13 percent.

  • A main reason for the drop in practice ownership appears to be due to the retiring physicians who are typically owners, combined with a decreased proportion of younger physicians opening practices.

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