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Doctor-owned practices now a minority: AMA

The American Medical Association (AMA) has run the numbers and found that, for the first time since people can remember, fewer than half of working physicians own their own practices.

A doctor hanging up his own shingle was once part of the folklore of American life, and previous studies from the 1980s, an accompanying story on AMA Wire notes, found physician ownership above the 70% range.

But AMA’s 2016 Physician Practice Benchmark Survey of 3,500 physicians found that “less than half (47.1%) of patient care physicians had an ownership stake in their practice.” Previous Benchmark Surveys in 2012 and 2014 had ownership only slightly above 50%; 2016 was the first time owners were a minority and “also the first year when there were an equal number of employees and owners.”

The survey also finds that the younger the physician, the less likely he or she is to own their business; ownership is 54.9% among physicians 55 and older, and 27.9% among physicians under the age of 40.

Surgical sub-specialists (59.3%) and radiologists (56.3%) were most likely to own their businesses and emergency medicine physicians (27.9%) and pediatricians (39.2%) were least likely. Psychiatrists were most likely to be in solo practice (31.9%).

On the other hand, a majority of physicians still work for physician-owned practices (55.8%); hospital ownership has “leveled off” after increases in previous years, AMA Wire says. Single-specialty practices were more likely to be independently owned that multispecialty practices (68.7% compared to 36.7%) and less likely to have complete or partial hospital ownership (22.8% compared to 43.6%).

AMA itself takes no sides on the trend. “Patients benefit when physicians practice in settings they find professionally and personally rewarding, and the AMA strongly supports a physician’s right to practice in the setting of their choice,” said AMA President Andrew W. Gurman, MD.

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