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In Focus: Take Charge

AMA Releases New Study: PRivate PRactice MEdicine is Strong

Private practice medicine remains strong despite an increase in hospital employment, according to data on physician practice arrangements released by The American Medical Association (AMA) in September

“To paraphrase Mark Twain, the reports of the death of private practice medicine have been greatly exaggerated,” said AMA President Ardis Dee Hoven, MD, in a statement. “This new data shows that while there has been an increase in hospital employment, more than half of physicians (53.2 percent) were self-employed in 2012, and 60 percent worked in practices wholly owned by physicians. Needed innovation in payment and delivery reform must recognize the wide range of practice types and sizes that exist today so all physicians can participate in the move to a more patient-centered system that rewards high-quality care and reduces costs.”

While this new study shows 60 percent of physicians in physician-owned practices, there has been a trend toward more hospital employment during the last five years. In 2012, 29 percent of physicians worked either directly for a hospital (5.6 percent) or for a practice that was at least partially owned by a hospital (23.4 percent). A 2007/2008 AMA survey did not distinguish between direct hospital employment and employment in a hospital-owned practice but found that 16.3 percent of physicians worked in one of the two settings. The percentage of physicians who were practice owners in 2012 decreased eight percent from 2007/2008. Eighteen percent of physicians were in solo practice, down six percent over five years. Single specialty practice was the most common practice type in 2012, accounting for 45.5 percent of physicians, according to the study results.

This study is part of the AMA’s Policy Research Perspective (PRP) series. Visit www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/advocacy/ health-policy/policy-research.page for more information.

What’s the Best State IN WHICH to Practice Medicine?

Mississippi is the most physician-friendly state in the nation, according to the Physicians Practice 2013 Best States to Practice project, a data-driven ranking of US states according to the climate for practicing physicians.

Physicians Practice found that in four of the six statistical categories used to compile the rankings for the 50 US states and the District of Columbia, Mississipi ranked in the top 10, the only state to do so. It ranked first in the nation for both low physician density and low tax burden and fourth overall for lowest medical malpractice payouts per capita. Mississippi also fared well in the other categories: cost of living, disciplinary actions against physicians, and Medicare payments to medical practices.

Rounding out this year’s Best States to Practice top five were Nevada, Alabama, Texas, and Tennessee. The bottom five were New York, Hawaii, Maryland, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.

AMA Offers Physicians Help Complying with Revised HIPAA Regulations

The American Medical Association (AMA) recently released a new toolkit to help physicians navigate the revisions to the federal privacy and security rules for health information that went into effect in September.

The Department of Health and Human Services issued a final rule last January that revises and extends required safeguards for protected health information established under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996. The result of the rule, which expands the individual rights of patients, including tightening requirements on physicians when patient information is breached, is that physician practices could face more legal scrutiny and higher fines in case of an information breech, according to the AMA.

The AMA’s new toolkit provides guidance to help physicians review and update their existing HIPAA policies and procedures with an easy-to-understand breakdown of the revised rule, including encryption safeguards for electronic patient information. Physicians will need revised privacy notices to share with patients, as well as new agreements with business associates who handle patient data. The AMA provides updated templates of these important documents that physicians can use to conform with changes to the privacy rule.

“Understanding the implications of the modified privacy rule can be daunting for busy physician practices,” said AMA President Ardis Dee Hoven, MD in a press release. “The AMA stands ready with expert resources and effective tips that will help physicians meet the new requirements for protecting highly sensitive patient information as more data becomes digitalized.”

The HIPAA toolkit and templates are available free to all physicians on the AMA website at www.ama-assn.org/go/hipaa.