The health care industry is rapidly changing, and so are doctors’ business models. According to a survey by the Physicians Foundation, more than 50 percent of 13,500 doctors surveyed in 2000 had independent practices. In 2013, however, only one-third of the doctors practiced independently.
The reasons for the shift are various. There are more regulations under current health care law; insurers have more oversight; medical and technological advances can be difficult for independent doctors to keep up with; and in many cases, insurers are paying out less for medical services. In short, doctors have become inundated with business matters, and to cut down on paperwork and keep the focus on patients, many physicians have sold or left behind their independent practices and instead started working for larger health care systems.
However, going to work for hospitals is not the only change independent doctors are making to continue their medical practices while earning a good income. Rather than counting on reimbursements from insurance companies, some doctors have switched to a concierge model, whereby patients pay an annual or monthly fee for services such as increased access to physicians or same-day appointments.
Lower insurance reimbursements and difficulty with collections have prompted other doctors to adopt cash-only policies.
In general, physicians who are making such changes are doing so in order to focus on patient care rather than paperwork.
Whether they have independent practices or work for a larger organization, health care providers have to comply with state and federal laws each day. To guard against costly liabilities, doctors at every level of care should have legal counsel with experience in business matters, as well as the changing landscape of the health care industry.
Source: Los Angeles Times, “Doctors are shifting their business models,” Lisa Zamosky, Aug. 31, 2014