41% of radiologists separated from at least one practice recently, underscoring specialty’s growing mobility

More than 41% of radiologists separated from at least one practice over a recent four-year period, underscoring the specialty’s increasingly mobile nature, experts wrote Friday.

In a recent analysis of Medicare data, researchers found that the annual radiologist-practice separation rate increased by 38.4%, a change that persisted across different office sizes, locations, types and specialties.

“With over 40% of radiologists separating from at least one practice in recent years, the U.S. radiologist workforce is highly and increasingly mobile,” Stefan Santavicca, with the Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Economics, and colleagues wrote Nov. 13 in JACR. “Because reasons for separation cannot be assessed using administrative data, further attention is warranted given the manifold financial, operational and patient care implications,” they added.

For the study, the authors analyzed data from Medicare Physician Compare and other sources to assess trends in practice separation. Examples of this might include termination, resignation, timely retirement, or practice acquisition.

All told, Santavicca et al. identified 25,228 unique radiologists, associated with 4,381 group practices. Among the study group, 41.1% of physicians separated from a group practice between 2014 and 2018. Separation rates varied widely from state to state, with Utah logging the highest number at 57.4% versus Virginia’s 26.3%. Same for subspecialists who logged rates as high as 43% in breast imaging compared to 33.5% for cardiothoracic radiologists.

The team of researchers also noted that early and late-career status were independent positive predictors of radiologist-practice separation. Meanwhile, larger practice size, providing only radiology services, academic, abdominal, neuroradiology and musculoskeletal subspecialization were all independent negative predictors.

Santavicca and colleagues believe better understanding these trends is crucial to the specialty’s future.  

“Although we can only speculate about the many reasons for such great radiologist workforce mobility, the implications for the profession are not insignificant,” the authors argued. “The more radiologists move in a consolidating corporatized marketplace, the more likely they are to have an employee (rather than partner or owner) mentality—a shift that could potentially stifle radiologist innovation and entrepreneurship. Moreover, physician turnover is both expensive for practices and disruptive for their patients with manifold implications on operations and patient care.”

You can read much more about their findings in the Journal of the American College of Radiology here. The piece also listed several radiologists/ACR Board of Chancellors members as authors, including chairman Howard Fleishon, Council Speaker Richard Duszak Jr., and commission leaders Andrew Rosenkrantz, Frank Lexa and Eric Rubin.