ACP Survey: Most Physicians Concerned About Private Equity Investments in Health Care

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Concerns relate to impact of private equity impact on health equity, health care costs and physician well-being

April 5, 2024 (ACP) -- As private equity firms continue to acquire health care organizations, most internal medicine physicians are not sold on the benefits of working in private equity-backed practices, as evidenced by the results of a new survey conducted by the American College of Physicians.

"Our research shows that physicians have a negative opinion of private equity's involvement in the health care sector, particularly as it relates to health equity, health care costs and physician well-being," said Ryan Crowley, ACP senior associate for health policy. "They also have more favorable views of nonprofit hospital and health system and independent practice ownership than private equity."

According to the survey results published in the March 11 issue of JAMA Internal Medicine,

of 525 physicians surveyed, 60.8 percent viewed private equity involvement as negative, 28.8 percent were neutral and just 10 percent viewed it positively or somewhat positively. A subset of private equity-employed physicians was less likely to report high levels of professional satisfaction compared with their non-private equity-employed counterparts (44.8 versus 74.4 percent). They also reported having less autonomy than physicians who were non-private equity employees (48.3 versus 66.3 percent).

Moreover, fewer private equity-employed physicians reported being extremely likely or somewhat likely to remain with their employer. A minority of respondents expressed a positive opinion of private equity's potential impact on innovation in health care, but overall, the response was negative, Crowley said.

These findings may have a dramatic effect on the physician workforce, he noted. "Most respondents viewed private equity as having a negative effect on physician well-being," he said. "This is an area that needs further study since private equity interest in physician practices continues to grow, and it could have major implications for physician burnout, the health care workforce and quality of care."

The Justice Department Antitrust Division, Federal Trade Commission and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently launched a cross-governmental public inquiry into private equity's increasing control over health care. The inquiry aims to understand how certain transactions could generate profits for firms while negatively affecting patients' health, workers' safety, quality of care and health care affordability.

"High-quality care must be top priority, regardless of the ownership arrangement," Crowley said. "ACP has called for increased transparency and oversight of private equity's involvement in the health care sector, and the medical community should push for more scrutiny to prevent adverse outcomes like lower quality of care and increased physician burnout."

More Information

The research letter, "Physician Perspectives on Private Equity Investment in Health Care," is available on the JAMA Internal Medicine website.

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