Traditionally, there are 2 ways for a community family physician to work: one is to own and operate a practice and take on the operating expenses, and the other is to join a practice as an associate physician and contribute a portion of their income to the practice owner.

The start up and ongoing costs for practice ownership is substantial. The owner is responsible for lease, renovation, equipment purchase, payroll, and upkeep. They are taking on significant financial risks if they are unable to find associate physicians to join them and share their operating expenses.

On the other hand, an associate physician are beholden to the practice owner’s policies and procedures. They may voice concerns if they find deficiencies in staff training, equipment, or workflow, but it’s ultimately up to the owners to make practice decisions. Also, becoming an associate is usually a long-term commitment. It’s cumbersome and costly to move a patient panel from one practice to the next, so a practice would likely not take on an associate who plans to leave after a few months.

Thankfully, now there is a 3rd option: medical co-work.