Taking a stand against corporate medicine takeovers that negatively impact physicians, patients, and quality of care
NAPERVILLE, Ill., Oct. 13, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- Working to keep independent, physician-owned medical practices just that – independent – nearly 400 anesthesiologists from three states have come together to create the Association for Independent Medicine (AIM). The non-profit organization was founded by members of Midwest Anesthesia Partners in Naperville, IL, Anesthesia Management Services in Commerce Township, MI, Mid-Continent Anesthesiology Chartered in Wichita, KS, and Anesthesia Practice Consultants in Grand Rapids, MI, on the principle that maintaining physician control of healthcare decision-making results in the highest quality of care for patients and most efficient use of healthcare resources. With a significant increase in private equity-funded groups – "corporate medicine" – taking over independent practices and hospitals, the organization's purpose is to support groups who choose to remain independent by providing information, education and political advocacy.
There has been a shift away from patient-care physicians working at physician-owned groups over the past eight years. According to a May 2021 report by the American Medical Association, for the first time, less than 50% of patient-care physicians work for physician-owned practices. The decrease is being attributed to mergers and acquisitions, a change in the type of practice being chosen by younger physicians, and physician job changes.
The below table highlights the change in physician employers since the AMA began its study in 2012:
Wholly physician-owned practice
Hospital or practice at least partially owned by a hospital or health system
Private equity controlling interest
*Additional employers included direct hospital employee/contractor, wholly owned not-for-profit foundation and "other"
The Association for Independent Medicine is first focusing its efforts on recruiting other anesthesiology groups that are physician-owned, given members' close ties within the practice, but the future goal is to partner with groups across other specialties needing support. Whether it's providing guidance on best practices for responding to a hospital's RFP, sharing group purchasing opportunities or simply networking, AIM looks to be a must-have membership for all independent medical practices.
"Our first charge as physicians is to provide patient care to the best of our abilities. When corporate medicine takes over, physicians lose their decision-making abilities, leading to a decrease in patient care options which may negatively impact outcomes," said Marco Fernandez, MD, an anesthesiologist and president of Midwest Anesthesia Partners, a physician-owned group serving 23 sites throughout Chicagoland. "Groups bought out by private equity are typically forced to follow the corporate owner's guidelines set in place, which frequently include less time allowed for physicians to spend with each patient, reduced billing reimbursements by insurance companies and increased hours worked by physicians."
Dr. Fernandez brought together the other founding member groups of AIM via social media discussions about corporate medicine and the negative impacts it has had. "Independent group ownership is becoming more difficult in the face of corporate medicine competition and the ridiculous salary offers from them that take potential candidates away from independent groups. We hope AIM is a resource for physicians looking to join an independent practice, an education for residents to learn about the benefits of independent medicine and the negative realities of corporate medicine, and an influence in the industry for legislative change and physician and patient protection."
Some members of AIM are also participating in an ad hoc committee on independently managed practices, hosted by the American Society of Anesthesiologists, to help the organization identify opportunities to provide resources to address the unique challenges that independent practices face today. While those recommendations are expected to be presented early next year, AIM sees an immediate need for a network of physician-owned groups to communicate around successes and challenges and share information and support for group needs.
More information about the Association for Independent Medicine can be found at www.associationforindependentmedicine.org. Follow AIM on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram for group and industry news.
 American Medical Association, "AMA analysis shows most physicians work outside of private practice," May 5, 2021, https://www.ama-assn.org/press-center/press-releases/ama-analysis-shows-most-physicians-work-outside-private-practice.
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SOURCE Association for Independent Medicine