Perspective from Jack M. Bert, MD
May 06, 2019
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AMA: Number of US employed physicians exceeds self-employed physicians for first time

Perspective from Jack M. Bert, MD
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Employed physicians in the United States outnumber self-employed physicians for the first time, the AMA wrote in a press release.

The association also indicated that although that statistic is indicative of a “long-term trend” that has observed physicians gradually moving away from private practice, it should not be assumed the shift in employment status is permanent.

Data from 2018 that was in the release included: 

  • 47.4% of patient care physicians were employed physicians.
  • 45.9% of patient care physicians were self-employed.
  • 54% of patient care physicians worked in physician-owned practices as either a contractor, employee or owner.
  • Almost 70% of physicians aged younger than 40 years were employees.
  • 38.2% of physicians aged older than 55 years were employees.
  • 57.6% of female physicians were employees (34.3% were practice owners).
  • 52.1% of male physicians were practice owners (41.9% were employees).
  • 56.5% of physicians worked in practices with 10 or fewer physicians.
  • 8% of all patient care physicians worked directly for a hospital or a practice at least partially owned by one.

In addition, and also in 2018, the highest share of practice owners was observed in the surgical subspecialties, where 64.5% were owners, followed by 53.8% of OB-GYN providers and 51.7% of internal medicine subspecialties.

On the flip side, the lowest share of practice owners was seen in the emergency medicine field, where 26.2% were owners. This specialty also had more independent contractors (27.3%) than any other field, and family practice had the highest share of employed physicians (57.4%).

“Transformational change continues in the delivery of health care and physicians are responding by reevaluating their practice arrangements,” Barbara L. McAneny, MD, AMA president, said in the release.

“Physicians must assess many factors and carefully determine for themselves what settings they find professionally rewarding when considering independence or employment.”

She added that physicians needing help making such decisions are encouraged to contact AMA for assistance.

Disclosure: McAneny is AMA president.