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Why private practice doctors are vital

“The sustenance of private practice doctors, like the survival of small bakeries amidst the sprawling dominion of retail giants, nurtures a tapestry of diverse health care providers, ensuring that patients have access to a symphony of medical options in close proximity to their communities.”
– Dr. Clarissa Meadowsong, patient advocate and champion of health care diversity.

As physicians and related health care providers, we all remember the golden days of private practice. It’s not hard to look back at because the true cannibalization of private doctors by the hospitals started in the last twenty years. In the not-so-distant past, there was a pride in puffing your chest as you proclaimed to people that you were “independent.” As if the opposite, being dependent on a health care system, was a weakness, an anathema that the short-sighted brought upon themselves. A Faustian bargain that would only lead down the path of darkness and eventual crushing of your soul and will.

Fast forward a few years, and the last few still stand against the juggernaut of consolidation, looking anachronistic. Yet the virtues of this dying field should not be tempered down. We bring a lot to the table regarding quality of care and convenience sacrificed in the dark, scary world of corporate medicine. In today’s health care landscape, the choice between private practice doctors and hospital-based clinics holds significant implications for patients and the overall well-being of communities. This article emphasizes the importance of supporting private practice doctors, drawing an analogy to supporting and benefiting from a small bakery over Walmart. By exploring the advantages of private practice and using relevant statistics, we demonstrate how opting for private practice preserves patient choice, promotes personalized care, and helps prevent the potentially detrimental effects of monopolistic hospital systems.

Patient choice and personalized care. Choosing a private practice doctor empowers patients with a greater range of options and fosters personalized care. Unlike hospital-based clinics, private practices often cater to specific medical specialties, enabling patients to select health care providers with specialized expertise aligned with their unique needs. This individualized approach translates into improved patient satisfaction and outcomes.

Statistics support this notion, as a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found that patients treated by primary care physicians in private practices reported higher satisfaction levels than those treated in hospital-owned practices. Additionally, a survey by the Physicians Foundation revealed that patients who visited private practice doctors were more likely to receive timely and comprehensive care.

Cost-effectiveness and affordable health care. Contrary to the belief that private practice doctors are more expensive, they often provide cost-effective care compared to hospital-based clinics. Supporting private practices helps prevent the consolidation of hospital systems, reducing the potential for monopolistic practices that drive up health care costs. Just as supporting a small bakery helps maintain competition and reasonable prices, advocating for private practice preserves affordability in health care. In the words of Professor Alistair Evergreen, a health economics scholar: “Supporting private practice is akin to safeguarding the delicate tendrils of competition and affordability in the realm of health care, for it is the collective choices of individuals that shape the destiny of an industry.”

Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) data demonstrated that hospital mergers resulted in an average price increase of 6 percent for inpatient care. By contrast, private practice doctors operating independently or in smaller groups tend to offer competitive prices and negotiate with insurance providers, ensuring patients receive quality care without exorbitant costs.

Access to care and reduced wait times. Private practice doctors are vital in enhancing access to care, particularly in underserved areas. Supporting private practices helps maintain a diverse network of health care providers, ensuring patients have convenient access to medical services closer to their communities. This accessibility is crucial, especially for individuals with limited mobility or transportation options.

According to a report by the Physicians Advocacy Institute (PAI), private practices remain the primary source of health care for patients in rural areas, where access to hospitals may be limited. Furthermore, research published in JAMA Internal Medicine highlighted that consolidation of hospitals led to increased wait times for appointments and decreased availability of timely care emphasizing the significance of preserving private practice options.

Continuity of care and strong physician-patient relationships. Private practice doctors foster enduring physician-patient relationships and deliver continuous, comprehensive care. Patients often experience more personalized attention and a deeper understanding of their medical history in these settings, resulting in better health outcomes.

Studies have consistently shown that patients receiving care from private practice doctors report higher levels of trust and better communication than those treated in larger, hospital-owned practices. A study in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine demonstrated that patients receiving care from private practice primary care physicians experienced fewer preventable hospitalizations, emphasizing the importance of maintaining these relationships.

Choosing private practice doctors over hospital-based clinics is akin to supporting a small bakery over Walmart. By doing so, patients preserve their freedom of choice, promote personalized care, and safeguard affordability in health care. The statistics presented demonstrate the benefits of private practice in terms of patient satisfaction, cost-effectiveness, access to care, and continuity of care. Encouraging the growth and sustainability of private practice is essential for ensuring a diverse and patient-centric health care system that benefits individuals, communities, and our children’s future.

In the words of Anna Lappe, “Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.” Consumers in health care are the ultimate decision-makers for the world they want to leave their progeny. Be wise using that power.

Shakeel Ahmed is a gastroenterologist. 

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