Would you rather work for an independent practice group, or are you better off employed by a health system (hospital, facility chain or corporation providing physician services)? This is a key question that, as a physician, you should ask yourself regularly to develop a career that meets your professional goals. Doing so now will help point you toward the employment model that's right for you, the facilities where you work, and the patients you serve.
Both employment models have advantages and drawbacks, and either model can offer a route to a successful career. Keep in mind, however, that independent groups are gradually losing market share as health systems integrate services both vertically and horizontally, limiting employment options for physicians seeking an independent practice environment.
On the other hand, as health systems broaden their strategies, their need for physicians continues to grow in new directions. Physician workforce demand is burgeoning in areas such as ASCs, urgent care centers, telemedicine, and insurance as these fields align and integrate with more traditional outpatient offices, hospitals, and SNFs. These opportunities benefit both independent as well as employed physician groups.
If working for an independent practice group:
1. Constantly and critically evaluate your group's performance. This information may be difficult to obtain, and its easy to convince yourself that all is well. Absent regular and transparent feedback you really don't know how you or your practice is viewed by your clients, and you don't want to wait until the next contract renewal discussion to find out.
2. Participate in the selection and the onboarding of new practice colleagues. Increasingly, the way you're perceived is increasingly tied to perceptions of your practice colleagues in the eyes of the medical and administrative staff. You cannot align with your clients until you first align with your own practice colleagues, so you want to be part of the process.
3. Keep an eye on important financials. Become familiar as best you can with the financial condition of your group. If you are not a practice partner then getting a look at the P&L may be difficult, but it's still a good idea to ask. At least you can ask for a redacted view showing all but the bottom line and individual compensation. It's fair to seek assurance that your practice is growing or at least stable with solid encounter volume and a well-supported back-office operation.
4. Stay abreast of growth prospects. Find out who in your group is responsible for marketing and business development activities such as pitching new prospective clients, making your presence known in your community by adding market share, and expanding service capabilities internally. What progress is being made toward practice growth through these efforts? A practice standing still is a practice that's likely to weaken over time.