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Survey: Over 26 percent of solo docs may close their practices

Over 26 percent of respondents to a poll on Sermo, the world’s largest online community for physicians, have admitted they had been forced to close, or are considering closing, their solo practice.

Of the 112,000 physician members on the site, nearly 500 physicians from 40 specialties responded to the poll.

The polling data confirms the seriousness of many forecasts predicting a shortage of primary care physicians and exposes many reasons physicians are choosing to leave the profession. Physicians point to a variety of issues including low and delayed reimbursements, problems with management companies, and a lack of business/practice management education.

Data show that without business fundamentals, solo physician practices suffer; high overhead, high insurance costs, and low reimbursement rates can create a failing endeavor.

"I was trained as a physician and not a businessman and not an insurance coder," one family physician from North Carolina said.

Another physician found the "cost of rent, medical supplies, malpractice [insurance], employees" to be "prohibitive" and was forced to close as well.

A physician from the poll said that the "biggest problem" facing his practice is delayed and declining Medicare reimbursements. "When the companies are all paying promptly, I am just barely able to keep things covered," he said.

These issues are often a "driving force" for many physicians to work with a practice management company. But often physicians claim these companies fail to deliver on their contractual obligations. One poll respondent from Texas was forced to declare bankruptcy after his relationship with a practice management company soured.

Some physician respondents suggested selling the failing practice or transitioning to a cash-only model, yet others advised colleagues to take a salaried position at a hospital or the military.

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