For the first time in the United States, employed physicians outnumber self-employed physicians, according to a newly updated study on physician practice arrangements by the American Medical Association. This milestone marks the continuation of a long-term trend that has slowly shifted the distribution of physicians away from ownership of private practices.
Employed physicians were 47.4 percent of all patient care physicians in 2018, up 6 percentage points since 2012. In contrast, self-employed physicians were 45.9 percent of all patient care physicians in 2018, down 7 percentage points since 2012. Changes of this magnitude are not unprecedented. Older AMA surveys show the share of self-employed physicians fell 14 percentage points during a six-year span between 1988 and 1994.
Given the rate of change in the early 1990s, it appeared a point was imminent when employed physicians would outnumber self-employed physicians, but the shift took much longer than anticipated. The AMA’s research notes this example and suggests “caution should be taken in assuming current trends will continue indefinitely.”Read the full study here.