​The State of the Independent Medical Practice – A Kareo Study

Although 75% of independent healthcare practices say that increasing demands on provider time are impacting care delivery and nearly the same amount agree that avoiding physician burnout is a challenge, it is surprising to discover that in a recent survey, 60% of independent practices expect to grow in 2019 and 11% expect to shrink. Of the independent practices surveyed, only about a third plan to remain the same. These findings and more were released in the 2019 Kareo State of the Independent Practice Report.

Nearly 800 practices throughout the nation participated in the Kareo survey. Eighty-two percent of the respondents were primary care providers (general practitioner, family practice, or internal medicine), with the remaining practices representing 50 different specialties. Kareo conducted the survey to explore key issues and challenges that independent practices face in today’s healthcare environment. The respondents were asked about a variety of areas in their practice including patient collections, delivering care, regulatory compliance, patient engagement, and their use of technology to reduce administrative burdens. 

The survey uncovered a wide range of interesting facts from this frequently overlooked segment of the healthcare industry. The reality is that independent practices have 990.8 million visits, or 3.1 visits per person in the U.S. each year. While practices reflect significant optimism for growth in 2019, they continue to evaluate alternative business models to meet the changing needs of the healthcare market, including consolidations, acquisitions and partnerships. The previous trend for sales of independent practices to hospital entities is shown to have slowed to a virtual halt with 13% of practices considering joining a hospital entity, while 8% are simultaneously disassociating from a hospital, resulting in a net gain of only 5%. The survey shows that the predicted decline of independent practices is a false narrative.

However, that’s not to say that independent practices don’t have major challenges. In addition to the administrative demands on provider time that impacts care delivery, more than 60% of practices said they are seeing declining reimbursements from third-party payers and their patients are having to pay more for the same services.

One of the most interesting discoveries of the study is the love/hate relationship that independent practices have with technology. While 70% of providers agree that the time demands of EHR data entry detracts from care delivery, 69% of independent practices state that integrated technology solutions are needed to improve the efficiency and profitability of their practices. With that said, the survey showed that EHR is the only software that most providers use to help them with their care delivery workflow. Of those surveyed, only 64% are currently using an EHR. Interestingly, 17% plan to acquire EHR technology for the first time in 2019, and a quarter of practices are looking to switch technology vendors. With over 40% of independent practices planning to use new technology within the next 12 months, it shows that physicians are looking for more ways to streamline their care delivery workflow.

When it comes to billing, independent practices said they depend more on technology to get paid faster and more efficiently. Seventy percent of respondents said they currently use a billing/practice management software, and more than half said they use technology solutions for patient engagement.

We welcome you to read the survey for yourself and use the valuable insights to help you improve all aspects of running a successful independent practice, including care delivery, getting paid, patient engagement and regulatory compliance. 

About the Author

Cher Knebel is a Sr. Content Marketing Manager at Kareo and joined the company in 2019. She has been a content creator for more than two decades, specifically working...

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