Solo practitioners have read the obituary. And, just like Mark Twain, they have answered: "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated."
No one can deny that certain forces are threatening the future of solo practice. The hassle factor is at all-time high: more rules and regulations; rising malpractice premiums; bigger medical school debts; challenging information technology demands; flat or declining reimbursement. It's hard to resist the attractive salaries and signing bonuses now being offered by hospitals and physician-directed groups. For many physicians, it's a seductive alternative to building a practice "from scratch." For other physicians, it represents a loss of autonomy, the underlying motivation for physicians seeking a more entrepreneurial lifestyle.
Having been a solo practitioner, I would argue that solo practice is not dead, just different from its traditional image. As hospitalists take over the inpatient responsibilities, today's solo practitioner is more likely to have an "office-only" practice. Many solo practitioners are devoting more time and effort to patient wellness programs. Many have taken on the role of patient advocate, helping their patients navigate their way through an increasingly complex healthcare system. The growing interest in "concierge medicine" also falls into the domain of the solo private practitioner.
Another viable option for those with a solo practice mindset is locum tenens medicine. It offers the appeal of autonomy, flexibility, good income, and paid malpractice insurance, backed by the support of a caring team of experienced professionals.
Is solo practice dead? Not really.
Ken Teufel, M.D.
Ken Teufel is the Medical Director for Interim Physicians