The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated several emerging trends across healthcare and the practice of medicine. One that may have flown under the radar is the growing trend of ‘corporate medicine’ in which healthcare providers become employees. In fact, a recent report by the Physicians Advocacy Institute¹ notes that, in the U.S., “nearly 3 of 4 physicians are now employed by hospitals, health systems, and other corporate entities such as private equity firms and health insurers. Hospital systems and other corporate entities continued to drive consolidation in healthcare by aggressively acquiring physician practices throughout 2019-2021, especially during the period following the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
This trend has both positive and negative consequences. Healthcare stakeholders – including patients, providers, and biopharmaceutical manufacturers – should consider the ripple effects of consolidation and the shift of providers from private practice owners to corporate employees. GoodRx has developed strong relationships with both providers and their patients over the past decade and is helping pharmaceutical manufacturers address the changes resulting from this trend.
Corporate medicine enables scale and efficiency
On the positive side, corporate ownership may mean that more providers gain access to sophisticated, evidence-based tools that educate them about best practices and guide care decisions for a wide variety of medical conditions. A patient wants to believe that their provider always treats them with the most proven therapies available, but that may not always be the case due to a lack of training, time, information, or access to expensive tools. Regardless of geography, providers can benefit from other medical experts whose knowledge and experience are embedded in the software and instruments they use.
The systems-based approach commonly used by corporations – often combined with increased access to technologies such as clinical decision support (CDS) tools and advanced electronic health records (EHRs) – may lead to improved care if clinicians are involved in planning, tool evaluation and selection, and implementation. And dedicated IT support means that providers can focus on what they do best.
Corporate medicine may reduce provider autonomy and increase burnout
While many providers may work fewer hours in a corporate setting than in private practice, this paradoxically may not decrease burnout. A 2018 study² found that “physicians in small, independent primary care practices report dramatically lower levels of burnout when compared to the national average. In these practices, doctors have a sense of autonomy and are the ones creating the culture of the workplace…. They have a say in the decision-making process.”
Corporate ownership could diminish autonomy for individual physicians. The corporate owner may take an active role in determining the parameters of clinical care: which tests to order, which treatment protocols to follow, and which products to select as therapies. Even more experienced providers may need to practice medicine within the guidelines set by the corporations for which they work. In some cases, providers may be less willing to go out on a limb to advocate for a patient whose illness does not neatly fit into endorsed protocols.
Knowledge is power for patients and providers
For both patients and biopharma manufacturers, this increase in provider-as-employee is a call to action. Patients will continue to be best served by ensuring they are well-informed about their condition, its diagnosis, and treatment options available to them. More than ever, patients need information to help them engage their providers about their care, including a candid conversation about why the physician recommends the treatment being prescribed, and the expected out-of-pocket (OOP) costs for that treatment.
For biopharma manufacturers, this industry change signals a clear need to increase both engagement efforts and the availability of tools that enable providers to diagnose and treat patients using the protocols and products they believe are in the best interest of the patient – including their OOP costs. Compared to even a few years ago, providers today spend less time with pharma sales reps or viewing manufacturer-sponsored content in traditional medical media, so marketers must consider reaching providers in their ‘alternate workflow’ outside of their corporate-supported EHR and other IT platforms.
GoodRx engages providers outside of their ‘corporate workflow’
Increasing media and partnership investments with platforms that continue to grow their provider engagement is a smart way to reach and engage individual providers who may work within a large health system or hospital. And capturing providers’ attention on platforms they already use frequently – such as GoodRx – becomes even more important.
GoodRx is a valued platform that providers already trust, making it easy and efficient to start patients on therapies they can afford, and help them find the support they need to continue. With affordability solutions, including copay assistance, adherence support, patient education, and other tools that facilitate provider-patient engagement, GoodRx delivers what corporate EHRs cannot always provide. Meet your customers in their ‘complementary workflow.’ Click here to learn more about HCP engagement solutions from GoodRx.
1 Physicians Advocacy Institute > PAI Research > Physician Employment and Practice Acquisitions Trends: 2019-21. n.d. Accessed July 28, 2022. http://www.physiciansadvocacyinstitute.org/PAI-Research/Physician-Employment-and-Practice-Acquisitions-Trends-2019-21.
2 Finnegan, Joanne, “Which kind of doctors experience dramatically lower levels of burnout? Study offers new perspective,” Fierce Healthcare, July 10, 2018, https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/practices/doctors-small-independent-practices-experience-less-burnout