In a recent post I noted the trend among physicians to sell their practices to hospitals.
The recession coupled with the passage of the healthcare reform initiatives has pushed many physicians into simply throwing in the towel and walking away from the independent practice model.
The articles continues the discussion about physicians becoming employees of hospitals and describes the impact this change is having on the physicians, patients, and the economics of medicine.
I enjoyed the article, but the last paragraph really gripped me. Here it is:
Still, Mikell acknowledges, "doctors don't want follow-the-directions, cookbook medicine." And for many physicians, the idea of following new rules triggers a much larger unease at giving up their independence—a feeling of loss, both for the businesses they built and for their patients. Back in Bozeman, Blair Erb, the sole cardiologist in town, is a picture of resignation as he prepares to sign a contract with Deaconess. "I feel defeated," Erb says, looking around at the office furniture he and his wife, Liz, chose from a catalog years ago. The weathered ranchers and bundled-up women that come through his door mostly express disbelief when they hear that this frank-talking Tennessee native will sell his practice. His staffers say they're not looking forward to the questions the hospital's medical records system will soon prompt them to ask patients. (Do you wear a bike helmet regularly? Do you have a smoke detector?) "We'll try to retain as much professional independence as possible," Erb says, gazing at the hospital building, whose bulk he can see through his window. "But the fact of the matter is, we'll have a new master."
Regardless of one's stance on all the healthcare reform initiatives, it is difficult to watch this generation of physicians enter the twilight of their careers with frustration and disappointment. These men and women-- and their loyal patients-- deserve better, and our society will soon feel the impact of the loss when they and their practices are gone.
Note: I wanted the readers to be aware of a correction to this post. The Dr. Blair Erb who is mentioned in the Smart Money article is the son of the Dr. Blair Erb who was the president of the Wilderness Medical Society and an author in our Expedition & Wilderness Medicine textbook.