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Employed vs. Independent: Doctors Speak Out: Page 2 of 4

Employed vs. Independent: Doctors Speak Out: Page 2 of 4

Employment Economic Advantages

But Jameson's declaration aside, it's not clear if there is a major difference between the income of an employed physician and an independent physician. Regardless, there are plenty of economic factors driving the shift from independent to employed beyond the physician's paycheck. Even though he personally says independent physicians make more, Hollister says when you factor in "time spent vs. dollars earned," independent practice owners are working longer and doing more to earn the same, or potentially less, as employed physicians.

Tommy Bohannon, vice president of sales operations at Merritt Hawkins, a physician recruiting firm, says employed physicians enjoy a steady paycheck and a level of certainty that practice owners do not get. Plus there are better health benefit packages, he says, and it's better for those focused on having a better work-life balance. "This is certainly more appealing to younger physicians," he says.

To that point, there is also the matter of medical school debt, which also favors employment. "Physicians come out of med school…with six or seven figures of debt. They have to make some significant economic decisions right off the bat," Hollister says. To these younger physicians, employment offers that steady paycheck.

On the other end of the career spectrum, experts say employment offers physicians a better path towards retirement. This is important as more and more physicians contemplate retirement, according to the Physicians Foundation survey. The Physicians Practice Great American Physician Survey affirms this, indicating more than 20 percent of physician respondents are planning to retire in the next three years.

"As physicians contemplate retirement, because we're concerned about where our patients will go when we leave, one avenue that works well in that regard is selling your practice into a bigger system," says Hollister. Doing so can help relieve physicians of not just patient commitments, but financial ones as well, such as land and equipment leases and properties. On the flip side, Bohannon says small practice physicians are unlikely to have this kind of succession plan in place.

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