Associations between corporate ownership of primary care providers and doctor wellbeing, workload, access, organizational efficiency, and service quality

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Abstract

Traditionally, in many countries general practices have been privately-owned independent small businesses. However, the last three decades has seen the rise of large corporate medical groups defined as private companies which are able to have non-GP shareholders and with branches across many locations. The greater prominence of profit motives may have implications for costs, access to care and quality of care. We estimate that 45% of GPs in Australia worked in a practice that was a private company, and within this group over one third (19.9% of total) worked in a corporate medical group (a private company with 10 or more practice locations). We examine the association between being in a corporate medical group and 19 outcomes classified into five groups: GP wellbeing, workload, patient access, organizational efficiency, and service quality. GPs who worked in such groups were more likely to be older, qualified overseas, and to have a conscientious personality. There was mixed evidence on GPs wellbeing, with GPs in corporate medical groups reporting a higher turnover of GPs but similar levels of job satisfaction. GP workload was similar in terms of hours worked and after hours work but they reported a lower work-life balance. Patient access was better in terms of lower fees charged to patients but there was weak evidence that patients waited longer. GPs in corporate medical groups reported higher organisational efficiency because GPs spent less time spent on administration and management, had more nurses per GP, but despite this GPs were more likely to undertake tasks someone less qualified could do suggesting that nurses were complements not substitutes. There were no differences in service quality (teaching, patient complaints, consultation length, patients seen per hour). Corporate medical groups have become a substantial part of primary care provision in Australia. There is evidence they are more efficient, patient access is better with lower out of pocket costs and there are no differences in our measures service quality, but concerns remain about GP's wellbeing and work-life balance. Further research is needed on continuity of care and patient reported experiences and health outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105028
Number of pages8
JournalHealth Policy
Volume142
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024

Keywords

  • General practitioners
  • Incentives
  • Organisation
  • Ownership
  • Primary care
  • Private sector

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