What Happens to Residents When the Physician Employment Bubble Pops?

Some are saying the employed physician bubble is about to pop. We've seen this movie before when hospitals bought practices and then had to divest them because the docs were not as productive as expected. Doctors get hired to generate an expected rate of return, just like every other investment. When the downstream lab and imaging revenues are not up to snuff, or their RVU productivity drops, then there is trouble in River City and the white coats start to get the pink slips

Up to now, debt laden, life-style, work-life balancing residents have been more than accomodating to work for the Man. 

So, if the trend has plateaued, what does that mean for graduating residents?

1. They are inadequately trained in the business of medicine and will have to be brought up to speed.
2. They we have to settle for lower salaries until they can prove their productivity warrants a higher one
3. They will be inadequately trained in digital health and will have to be "rehabilitated"
4. They will have to figure out a way to pay off all those loans in the face of more competition and demands for productivity
5. They will have to compromise when it comes to all those nice notions of work-life balance
6. They will have to adopt a more entrepreneurial mindset
7. They will have to adapt to the trade offs of working for a physician-led organization v a non-physician led, organization
8. They will have to adapt to working in a smaller organization with a different culture than a larger organization with a corporate culture
9. They will be held more accountable for costs
10. It remains to be see whether all this lowers the suicide and burnout rate.

Unlike days of yore, private practice today is not the same as private practice of 20-30 years ago. Technology and different rules have enabled private practitioners to compete with the best of the large, integrated networks. They are nimbler, can change directions quicker and are quickly adapting. In the meantime, sadly, medical schools and residency training programs , suffering from craniorectal inversion syndrome, refuse to teach the Business of Medicine and are turning residents  lose without a net. 

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is the President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs at www.sopenet.org