One-Third of Family Physicians Remain in Independently Owned Practice, 2017–2019

One-Third of Family Physicians Remain in Independently Owned Practice, 2017–2019

Published: Sep 01, 2021
Publisher: The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, vol. 34, issue 5

Andrew W. Bazemore

Zachary J. Morgan

Lars E. Peterson

Key Findings
  • We found that independent physician-owned family physicians (FP) practices remain a significant part of the US primary care delivery system landscape. The proportion of FPs in independent practice varies greatly with size, with a vast majority of solo practices being independent but only one-third of 2 to 5 clinician practices being independent.
  • These independent practices face substantial administrative burdens by not having access to the resources of larger health care systems.
  • In addition to payment reforms, support for independent physician-owned primary care practices could be established through accountable care organizations with a primary care focus, a primary care extension service, or a new national primary care service corps.

The rise of health system and hospital ownership of primary care practices raises policy questions about the survival of independent physician-owned practices. Our data indicate that a substantial proportion of FPs in 2017–2019 remained in independently owned practice: 81% of solo practitioners and 35% of FPs in practices with 2–5 clinicians. These findings suggest that independent practice is surviving, and that it's incumbent on researchers, payers, and policymakers to better understand their unique contributions and challenges in the effort to improve primary care access, quality, and cost.

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