Death of the Solo Practitioner Almost Complete

The demise of the solo physician is official, according to Merritt Hawkins. A new survey revealed that only 1% of recruiting assignments was for solo practitioners.
The physician search and consulting firm tracked 2,710 physician recruiting assignments from April 1, 2011 to March 23, 2012. The small percentage of searches for solo physicians is a huge drop from less than a decade ago. In 2004, 22% of recruiting assignments were for solo practitioners.
“Nobody wants to be Marcus Welby anymore, practicing alone or with a partner, and fewer hospitals are seeking solo doctors for their communities,” James Merritt, founder of Merritt Hawkins, said in a statement. “To incorporate required technology, comply with regulations and participate in new delivery models like Accountable Care Organizations, physicians today almost have to be part of larger practices or be employed by hospitals.”
While employment of solo practitioners died a quick death since 2004, hospital employed physicians saw rapid growth during that time. The survey showed that 63% of assignments featured hospital employment of the physician, compared to only 11% in 2004. Merritt is forecasting that more than 75% of newly hired physicians will be hospital employees by 2014.
“The tide is turning, but increasing the volume of services they provide remains the most practical way for physicians to increase their incomes,” Merritt observes.             
And the most requested physicians were primary care, according to the survey. Family physicians and general internists were the two most requested physician search assignments by hospitals, medical groups and other health care organizations.
Demand for both radiologists and anesthesiologists decreased, however. This is a sharp drop for anesthesiology. In 2003, the specialty was among the top four most searched for and yet in the most recent survey, radiology wasn’t even in the top 20.
According to Merritt Hawkins, there was only a slight increase in the number of recruiting assignment compared to the previous year. After the Affordable Care Act was made law in 2010, physician recruitment slowed as hospitals and other facilities evaluated the implications of health care reform.
“With the Supreme Court’s recent decision on health care reform, the trajectory of the health care system seems clear,” according to the review. “Physicians and hospitals are moving toward integrated models featuring care coordination and pay-for-performance. This market clarity should create forward momentum for a wide range of health facility initiatives, including physician recruitment, which can be a key part of the integration process.”
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