March 10, 2023
Non-hospital physician employment rose sharply during pandemic
While hospitals, payers, and private equity firms have long been competing to acquire independent physician groups, the COVID pandemic spurred a marked acceleration of the physician employment trend, with non-hospital corporate entities leading the charge. The graphic below uses data released by consulting firm Avalere Health and the nonprofit Physicians Advocacy Institute to show that nearly three quarters of American physicians were employed by a larger entity as of January 2022, up from 62 percent just three years prior. While hospitals employ a majority of those physicians, corporate entities (a group that includes payers, private equity groups, and non-provider umbrella organizations) have been increasing their physician rolls at a much faster rate. Corporate entities employed over 40 percent more physicians in 2022 than in 2019, and in the southern part of the country—a hotspot for growth of Medicare Advantage—corporate physician employment grew by over 50 percent. We expect the move away from private practice, accelerated by the pandemic, will only continue as physicians seek financial returns, secure a path to retirement, and look to access capital for necessary investments to help grow and manage the increasing complexities of running a practice.