Years ago, after completing their medical training, the vast majority of doctors went into a solo practice in their community. At that time, there were mainly general practitioners and few specialists. However, with time, an increasing number of physicians became specialists, and the number of solo practitioners decreased. Group practices increased.
The setting in which your doctor works and the type of practice he or she has may have an impact on the medical care you receive.
There are many types of physician practices, including solo, group and hospital practices. Doctors can work for themselves or be employed by others.
Years ago, after completing their medical training, the vast majority of doctors went into a solo practice in their community. At that time, there were mainly general practitioners and few specialists.
However, with time, an increasing number of physicians became specialists, and the number of solo practitioners decreased. Group practices increased.
The location of the doctor’s office has also changed. At one time, the office was in the downtown section of the city, in the residential area of the community or even in a section of the doctor’s home. Now, the doctor’s office is more frequently located in a medical office complex, a medical center or an area in the hospital.
The type of the doctor’s practice has also been changing. A recent survey looked at the changes that have taken place during the past 10 years.
Solo practice. By 2001, the number of physicians going into solo practice had continued to decrease, and in that year, 8 percent of new doctors went into solo practice. By 2012, only 1 percent opted for solo practice.
Hospital practice. In 2001, only 3 percent of doctors were employed by hospitals. By 2011, 32 percent of physicians planned to work as hospital employees.
Partnerships or group practices. These remained pretty much the same with 21 percent in 2001 and 28 percent in 2011.
As a general rule, most physicians are independent individuals. Because of this personality trait, they have a greater tendency to want to run their own show, or their own medical practice.
So why are the majority of physicians today now employees and working for someone else?
There are many reasons, including the bureaucracy, administrative chores and expense associated with having a private practice. Also, just because you are a good physician does not mean you are also a good business person.
Another reason is, generally, employed physicians usually do not work as many hours, thus improving their lifestyle and family life.
Some people believe patients receive more individualized attention from doctors in private practice, but this certainly can vary. Hospital-located physicians have more backup, such as nearby consultants and easier availability of diagnostic studies.
Patients must consider the type of environment that makes them feel most comfortable when seeing their doctor.
However, there is one thing that has not changed with time: When a patient chooses a doctor, more important than where the doctor works, or if employed or not employed, is the doctor’s competency, bed-side manner and availability.
Dr. Murray Feingold is the physician in chief of The Feingold Center for Children, medical editor of WBZ-TV and WBZ radio in Massachusetts, and president of the Genesis Fund. The Genesis Fund is a nonprofit organization that funds the care of children born with birth defects, mental retardation and genetic diseases.