Consumers on hospital employed physicians

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Consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers projects hospitals’ acquisition of physician groups to be one of the major health care trends to watch in 2010.  There’s no doubt health systems are ramping up their efforts to hire/acquire physicians to better serve their markets, protect patient flow, and control costs. 

Question is, what do consumers think about that?  When we explored the issue in our Pulse360 consumer survey, 17.9 percent of southeastern women interviewed said they “strongly prefer” privately owned physician practices to hospital owned practices.  Another 26.4 percent said they “moderately prefer” privately owned practices.  A little over half (52.6%) said they didn’t care.

Consumers preferred private practice physicians because they feared hospital-employed doctors could be controlled by the hospital or otherwise be biased in favor of the hospital.  Most said it wouldn’t impact their confidence in or choice of a physician, but 14 percent said they would lack confidence in their doctor’s referral to a hospital that employed him or her. 

Consumers also felt private practice docs would provide better personal care and attention, but thought hospital owned practices had better technology, were accountable to someone and were managed more efficiently. 

So, what does this mean?  Well, even though most consumers say practice ownership won’t affect their choices, hospitals should be sensitive to the issue, knowing some consumers may question a referral.  Hospitals should also work with employed physicians and their staffs to improve the patient experience while promoting the perceived advantages such as technology.

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