A survey of physician placementsmade by the physician-recruitmentfirm Merritt, Hawkins & Assoc(www.merritthawkins.com) shows agrowing trend toward smaller medicalpractices. Since 1997, the numberof physicians placed by the firmwho have chosen small, 2-doctorgroups has jumped from 9% to22%. On the flipside, the numberof doctors opting for larger groupshas dropped over the same period,from 53% to 41%, and the percentageof doctors choosing hospital-basedpractices has dipped from16% to 14%. Solo-practice startupshave also blossomed. The trendis most apparent among primary-carephysicians, many of whom havebecome frustrated with the promisesof economies of scale in larger practicesthat have not developed.Specialists, according to the survey,continue to choose larger groups.The average annual salary for placedphysicians was $144,000 for a familydoctor, $148,000 for an internist,$219,000 for an OB/GYN physician,$226,000 for a gastroenterologist,and $273,000 for a cardiologist.