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Young doctors eager to own practice, join small groups


Finding an early-career physician who wants to replace you or a retiring physician at your practice might not be as difficult as you think, according to survey results released last week by The Physicians Foundation, a nonprofit independent physician advocacy group.

Half of the 500 physicians who responded to the survey were office-based primary care physicians (PCPs). The other respondents were office-based and hospital-based specialists.

If given the opportunity, 42% of young (40 years old or younger) PCPs said they would opt to be sole owners or partners in a group, whereas 35% said they would prefer employment in a group of 12 or fewer doctors.

Only 12% of physicians who are currently employees of large hospital-owned groups said they would stay in their current position. In addition, the young hospital-based physicians represented in the survey anticipated staying in their current positions 2 years or less. A majority of the physicians surveyed, however, indicated that they expect to stay in their practices for 8 years or more, including PCPs and medical/surgical office-based doctors.

Income and employment security were cited as the top two reasons PCPs chose their current practices. Eighty percent of the new physicians consider themselves either somewhat or highly satisfied with their current practice arrangements. One-fourth of survey respondents, however, noted that they chose their current arrangement because it was “the only job available.”

Early-career physicians surveyed were pessimistic about the healthcare reform law. More than twice as many respondents said they believe that the legislation will hurt their practices compared with those who think it will have a positive effect (49% and 23%, respectively). Other reasons cited for physician pessimism include concern over increased regulatory burdens and medical liability insurance premiums.

“Physicians who are just starting out must face the considerable challenge of massive student debt,” said Walker Ray, MD, vice president of The Physicians Foundation and chairman of the research committee, in a statement. “…[T]he foundation has noted a growing sense among new doctors that they will never experience the autonomy and independence of previous generations. If you combine these factors with the overall uncertainty driven by healthcare reform, it is easy to appreciate the confusion and frustration of young practitioners.”

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