Federal EHR regs driving docs out of private practice, says new report

53 percent cite costs, complexity of IT as reasons to seek employment

Independent physicians are a vanishing breed, due in large part to government regulations requiring the adoption of health IT and the meaningful use of electronic health records, according to a new report from Accenture.

The report finds that 61 percent of those surveyed will seek employment rather than open a private practice, with the majority citing the government regulations as the cause.

The number of doctors in private practice has dropped from 57 percent in 2000 to just 39 percent in 2012, according to Accenture, which forecasts a further 3 percent downtick by the end of 2013.

A large majority of physicians (87 percent) said they sought employment thanks to the high cost of doing business independently, according to the report. Nearly two-thirds (61 percent) noted the prevalence of managed care as a challenge, and more than half (53 percent) cited federal electronic health record (EHR) requirements as reasons to give up their independence.

Kaveh Safavi, MD, managing director of Accenture Health North America, said the cost of health IT implementations was only part of the problem for independent docs.

"A lot of it is the expertise," he said. "Everything from the selection of an EHR to the maintenance, the technology infrastructure and the compliance," he said.

For those physicians who are remaining independent, one-third of them are planning on moving to a subscription based model, such as a concierge practice or other direct pay subscription model, according to the Accenture report.

Interestingly, such concierge practices, are starting to embrace other technologies, such as booking appointments via smartphone, seeking to make it easier for patients to have access to physicians via telephone, live chat or video conference applications.

Those communication technologies, combined with social media technology, can allow physicians who adopt those technologies to differentiate themselves from large healthcare organizations, the report shows.

Read it here (PDF).