What is private practice—and is it right for you?

Patient smiling in an office

A private practice is wholly owned by physicians rather than a hospital, health system or other entity. A recent AMA Physician Practice Benchmark Survey showed that 49.1% of U.S. physicians delivering patient care work in practices wholly owned by physicians.

The private practice setting can be particularly rewarding for the freedom and other benefits it offers physicians, but it also has its share of challenges. It’s important to consider both before diving in.

Keep your practice running

The AMA is fighting to keep private practice a viable option for physicians. We're working to remove unnecessary burdens so physicians can reclaim the time they need to focus on patients. 

Astute clinical judgement, a commitment to collaboration and problem-solving are just some of the skills needed for physicians to run a private practice. It’s also a matter of mindset and what you want out of your career as you look ahead.

The AMA offers in-depth resources to help physicians consider all practice options and step-by-step guidance for those who want to run their own private practice, including the AMA Private Practice Playbook.

Private Practice Playbook

Access key steps, best practices and resources for thriving in private practice.

AMA STEPS Forward® Private Practice Playbook

Private practice can be a good setting for a physician if you value:

  • Autonomy
  • Less bureaucracy
  • Personalized care for your patients
  • Collaboration with a close group of like-minded colleagues
  • Greater personal investment in the direction of a business

Private practice can also come with challenges that are important to be aware of, including:

  • Startup costs, financial risk
  • Learning new business skills
  • Building patient volume
  • Establishing a reputation, marketing
  • Evolving payment policies

Beyond these considerations, it’s also good to be aware of the overall business landscape for private practices today, which could shape how you approach it as a career option.

Private practice considerations

The same recent AMA Physician Practice Benchmark Survey that showed 49.1% of U.S. physicians delivering patient care were working in private practice also showed this was down from 60.1% in 2012.

Private practice is an important part of health care delivery, but it has been under intense pressure in recent years, including challenges with insurance credentialing and payment and competition from ever-growing health systems.

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated many of these concerns, but it also created opportunities to change and improve health care delivery.

Private practice remains a viable and rewarding setting, allowing physicians to provide more individualized care to patients and set their own pace. It is also critical for rural and underserved populations, with the potential to make a significant difference in their health care outcomes.

The American Medical Association understands that the highest quality of patient care and greatest physician satisfaction are achieved when physicians pursue a setting that compliments their own unique style of practicing medicine.

The AMA offers in-depth resources to help physicians consider all practice options and step-by-step guidance for those who want to start and sustain success on the path to private practice, including the AMA Private Practice Playbook.

Dive deeper to explore more AMA private practice resources. 

Learn how to get started in private practice and how the AMA can help.