HomeHealth Care NewsIndependent Physicians Judged ‘Best’ in Atlanta

Independent Physicians Judged ‘Best’ in Atlanta

“Where physicians can practice unencumbered.”

A medical practice not connected with any university, hospital system, or private equity group dominates a list of “top doctors.”

Each year, Atlanta magazine conducts a survey of physicians in the Atlanta, Georgia metropolitan area. Physicians are asked to choose whom they deemed best in their fields.

“Our list is based on professional assessment of medical expertise,” states the publication, “qualified to judge clinical effectiveness.”

Physician Survey Results

Area physicians cast 10,000 votes in the survey, judging 24 of the 43 “best” urologists to be staff members at Georgia Urology, a physician-owned-and-operated medical practice based in Atlanta.

“The ‘secret sauce’ is having an organization where doctors can practice medicine unencumbered by outside regulation and where we can respect and create an environment where everyone can thrive,” said Hal Scherz, M.D., president and managing director of Georgia Urology and one of the doctors selected as best in his field.

Atlanta used an outside polling firm to conduct its survey. The magazine said advertising had no bearing on the results.

Resisting Big Offers

Scherz told the Heartland Daily Podcast on July 25  that a week doesn’t go by when a private equity group doesn’t make an offer to buy the 50-year-old practice, which has 25 locations, seven ambulatory surgery centers, and a staff of 500, including 50 urologists.

“Our goal has been to build a thriving practice that will survive our careers and be successful past the point of retirement,” said Scherz. “The goal of a private equity group or an outside owner is to increase the value of the practice and sell it. Some allow practices to operate freely, and they may even pump money into the practice, but by and large, as a physician you’re accountable to an outside entity.”

Staying “independent” has also been good for patients, says Scherz.

“Everything you do may not necessarily generate income but sometimes it’s the right thing to do because you need it to offer a full slate of care options to patients,” said Scherz.

Attracting Top Talent

Despite the notoriety of having the most “top doctors,” Georgia Urology realizes today’s doctors may prefer working for a large organization or university.

“Medical students today are taught a more progressive way of looking at health care, but not all doctors buy into that,” said Scherz. “When we recruit, we ask them if they’re willing to take a chance on themselves, bet on their own future, and have the opportunity to be their own boss.”

Doctors at Georgia Urology can decide for themselves how many patients they want to see or the kind of patients they want to see. That is not often guaranteed working in a large hospital group.

Independence has also been an asset in hiring and retaining support staff, says Scherz.

“During the pandemic, many hospitals turned their back on their employees,” said Scherz. “They furloughed them or fired them because they didn’t want to lose money. Many of these workers never came back to the hospital which is why there has been a profound shortage of people working in hospitals today. At Georgia Urology, we did not let one single person go, we have over 500 employees. We kept them all on despite the fact we were all not collecting money.”

Independent Doesn’t Mean ‘Lone Wolf’

Like other health care providers, Georgia Urology is faced with doctors retiring faster than they can be replaced.

Carl Capelouto, M.D., another “best” physician from the practice, says it is critical to recruit new doctors who will fit within the culture, he told Becker’s Hospital Review, in an article published on July 14.

The firm evaluates whether a candidate has “a burning desired to be successful,” is a “team player,” is “united in staying independent,” and prioritizes “sharing expertise, knowledge, and mentoring.”

Capelouto told Becker’s he abhors “lone wolves” and added, “[our] practice is constantly evolving, but we always remain committed to providing the best possible care for our patients, while also providing the best working environment for our providers and staff.”

AnneMarie Schieber (amschieber@heartland.org) is the managing editor of Health Care News.


AnneMarie Schieber
AnneMarie Schieber
AnneMarie Schieber is a research fellow at The Heartland Institute and managing editor of Health Care News, Heartland's monthly newspaper for health care reform.


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