MEDICAL GUIDE STORY – Jan. 2013 – By Amy Taylor 348-8914
Physicians part of national trend of doctors being employed by hospitals
With physicians seeking stability in their employment, and hospitals seeking to align with physicians, more physicians are being employed by hospitals. At the same time, openings for private practice physicians are declining, according to a survey by Merritt Hawkins, a nationwide physician search firm.
Another survey, this one by the Medical Group Management Association, shows that young doctors being hired today tend to value better work-family life balance, and are more willing than former generations to trade higher incomes for the lifestyle flexibility and administrative simplicity they enjoy when they become hospital employees.
Melanie Mooney, M.D., who treats patients at the Flaget Primary Care practice in Hodgenville that was opened recently by Flaget Memorial Hospital, is part of that new breed of physicians. Mooney is a Flaget employee.
“To know that you’re going to get a paycheck every two weeks is a very important thing for your family,” the primary care physician said. In addition, “to not have to deal with employee issues – that’s the way I want it.”
Some doctors want the autonomy of a private practice, the physician said.
But “I still have autonomy, as far as patient care is concerned. In fact, I have a lot more time to focus on my patients and their welfare.”
Hannah Hall, M.D., sees patients at Women’s Care of Bardstown, a practice owned by Flaget Memorial, which is a part of KentuckyOne Health. Hall also sees tremendous benefit to being employed by the hospital, she said.
“I wanted to focus on patient care, and not have to deal with the business side of running a practice,” the obstetrician/gynecologist said. “I didn’t want to have to get a business loan and hire nurses and other staff members. I didn’t want to hire and fire people.”
As an added bonus, costly malpractice insurance premiums are covered by the hospital, the physician said.
“This is really just the best arrangement for me,” Hall said. “This way I can focus on my patients.”
Mark Abramovich, M.D., who currently serves as chief of medical staff at Flaget Memorial, gave up his private practice to become an employee of the hospital in 2011. Doctors in small practices have no bargaining power with mammoth insurance companies, he said. Hospitals that are part of large health care systems do. That’s another reason why “the days of the solo primary practice are ending,” the doctor said.
Flaget President Sue Downs, M.S.N., C.E.N.P., F.A.C.H.E., can see another hardship for the solo practitioner.
“The government requires that health care providers invest in expensive new computer technology to convert paper patient records to electronic records. If doctors don’t comply, their reimbursement rates from government programs like Medicare will be lowered.”
On the positive side, “when physicians are hospital employees, there’s a much higher level of teamwork,” Downs said. “For patients, that results in a more seamless continuum of care.”
“Hospitals and doctors are working as partners as never before,” she said. “That can only be a good thing.”