In this post, Dr. Andrew Seter, owner of Sensia, talks about why he has remained an independent physician throughout his career.
“In the current healthcare climate, it sucks to be a doctor! Healthcare reform, billing complications, shrinking insurance reimbursements, legal risks and general costs of business ownership are just a few reasons more and more physicians are choosing employment with hospital systems instead of private practice. In 2000, 57% of US physicians chose the independent route. Today, that percentage has shrunk to an estimated 33%. In Wisconsin, the number is even smaller: only around 20% of primary care physicians are independent.
Let’s look at the complications of billing and insurance reimbursement in healthcare. Most medical practices need to employ several billing specialists in order to get paid. The doctor will see a patient, submit a bill, and wait. The insurance companies will review the bill and oftentimes only pay after applying a discount if they even pay at all! Literally, a doctor will submit a bill and not know when, how much, or even if they will be paid. I challenge any other business to operate profitably in that manner.
By the way, hospital systems are ‘non-profits’ so they can minimize if not avoid taxes. Independent medical providers are not afforded this luxury. As a private physician, I have paid my full and fair share of taxes throughout my career. I invite the hospital systems to abide by the same standards and not pass on their civic responsibility to others.
Ultimately, having all doctors employed is not a good thing for patients and the healthcare system overall. Employed doctors are essentially turned into cash registers. They are a slave to their computer and schedule. Many employed physicians are reimbursed in part based upon productivity which reflects how many tests they order—a very inappropriate and unethical requirement.
As an independent physician, I encourage doctors to own and operate their own medical practices. You have the ability to practice medicine on your own terms. You have more control over the financial aspects of your practice. You make the decision of how to grow and compete in your local market. Although the challenges are great, the professional and financial rewards are even greater.”
Key Insights Into the World of Independent Physicians. Wood; 2016.
Survey of America’s Physicians: Practice Patterns and Perspectives. Boston: The Physicians Foundation/Merritt Hawkins; 2014.