Capital News Service

of the Michigan State University School of Journalism

Shift seen in medical practice

By CHRISTINE HOMAN
Capital News Service

LANSING – Doctors in Michigan are confronting major changes in the practice of medicine said Thomas Petroff, vice president of medical affairs at Ingham Regional Medical Center.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty in the physician community especially with the effect of health care reform,” Petroff said.

Along with the new federal health law shaking things up, many doctors themselves are opting for another major change: taking salaried jobs at health networks and hospitals.

The percentage of physician owned medical practices has dropped from above two-thirds to below half nationally since 2005, according to the Medical Group Management Association in Washington, a national organization for administrators and leaders of group practices

Julie Lepzinski, assistant vice president at Holland Hospital Medical Groups, said that trend seems to be occurring for a few reasons — “financial, clinical operations and quality gains.”

For many doctors, a salaried job relieves the stress of running their own practice. Petroff said, “When you’re working for a hospital, you don’t have that worry as a physician. You’re not worried about paying the light bill or the heating bill or your employees. You’re worried about seeing patients.”

Many doctors also enjoy not dealing with as many of the business aspects of operating a private practice.

Sanjeev Mathur, an internal medicine specialist at Lakeshore Health Partners based at Holland Hospital, said doctors are able to focus on their patients instead of running a business because they receive operational and administrative support.

Some experts say that the trend may also help patients since it makes it easier for them to receive more coordinated care.

Petroff said, “I think the impact on patients in the long run could be very beneficial because you could see greater integration between what happens inside the hospital and what happens in the physician’s office.”

Mathur said that Lakeshore Health Partners has integrated outpatient and hospital medical records, which led to both better care and financial savings.

Petroff said that security is another why reason many doctors join hospitals and health care networks.

Doctors with salaried jobs don’t depend on seeing large numbers of patients to cover their expenses, said Petroff.

He said that many private practitioners had seen their income decrease while their expenses increased and regarded a salaried position as a way to stabilize their income.

Petroff said the only downside may be that doctors will see fewer patients since there is less economic pressure to do so.

© 2010, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.

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