Patient Care Does Not Improve When Hospitals Buy Private Practices

Steven E. North, Esq.

The need to keep healthcare costs down coupled with a demand for better patient care is driving change in physician-hospital relationships.

There has been a decided uptick in the number of hospitals “buying up” private practices, incorporating the physicians involved as salaried hospital staff, and absorbing their patients into the hospital system.

In theory, such actions would free physicians from the time and costs associated with running their own practices and allow them to be more accessible to their patients.

A study was conducted to determine if this trend is, in fact, improving care. According to a study in the Annals Of Internal Medicine, it does not. The study found no association between switching to the new employment model and improved patient outcomes.

The study found that when hospitals control physicians’ practices, burnout is a common malady. Doctors bemoan the lack of time allowed for patient care, because the hospital wants fast patient turnover and high volume.

The standards and protocols set forth by hospitals often demoralize physicians, which drives the quality of care down. Physicians do not like to be told how much time they can or cannot spend with patients, what tests must or cannot be ordered. They do not like having their judgment supplanted by hospital protocol. It may be, too, that once the personal incentive to grow and maintain a practice – the pride in ownership – is removed, it is more difficult to stay motivated, and general patient care can suffer.