Medscape has conducted another compensation survey, this year speaking with nearly 19,200 physicians in over 26 specialties. Beyond general compensation, this year’s survey also took a look at hours spent with each patient and the rewards and challenges that come with the job.
Some of this year’s findings remained consistent from previous years. For instance, the top three earners of last year still held the top spots this year: Orthopedists earned on average $443,000, cardiologists $410,000 and dermatologists came in at $381,000. The bottom three earners were also unchanged, with pediatricians coming in at $204,000, endocrinologists at $206,000 and family physicians at $207,000. The survey also found that the percentage of working women to men was unchanged from last year. Nearly 31% of working physicians are female and most tend to join nonsurgical specialties.
There were, however, some eye-opening findings in this year’s report. Here are 9 key insights.
1. Most Specialties Saw an Increase in Compensation
Compared to last year’s survey, most specialists’ income increased this year. The exception would be allergists and pulmonologists, who experienced a noticeable decrease (-11% and -5% respectively). Pathologists’ and plastic surgeons’ compensation remained the same.
In looking at the chart we find that rheumatologists and internists saw a significant increase in compensation. Travis Singleton, senior vice president of national physician search firm Merritt Hawkins, speculates that the large number of baby boomers turning 65 on a daily basis has driven the demand for internists, hence the higher compensation. The survey also found, though internists salaries have increased, many said if they had it to do all over again, they would change their specialty.
2. Men are Still Earning More
According to the survey, male physicians are still earning higher salaries than their female colleagues. Male PCPs are earning, on average, $225,000 a pear versus female PCPs earning $192,000. For specialists, compensations averaged $242,000 for men and $173,000 for women.
Interesting to note, however, is that female salaries rose at 36 percent versus 29 percent for male PCPs, and 40 percent versus 34 percent for specialists, according to the survey.
3. Practice Owners Have Higher Salaries Than Their Employed Counterparts
Employed physicians are breathing a sigh of relief at not having to bear the brunt of business responsibilities of self-employed physicians. One negative to employment is a lower average income. PCPs make $207,000, only slightly less than their self-employed peers, who make on average $229,000. Self-employed specialists, however, earn significantly more than employed specialists, and both groups earn more than PCPs.
4. Geography Effects Compensation by a Whopping $30,000 a Year
The area of the country where a physician lives makes a difference of $30,000 a year between the highest paid North Central region and the lowest Northeast section of the country. The highest paid doctors are in some surprising states, namely North Dakota, New Hampshire, Nebraska, Alaska, Montana and Indiana. States with the lowest earners include Vermont, Colorado, New Mexico.
5. Doctors Spend 13 Minutes with Their Patients
Lately, both physicians and their patients have complained of less face time during office visits. But just how much face time are we talking about? According to the Medscape survey, 13-16 minutes is the average amount of time spent with patients, followed by 17-20 minutes.
6. More Specialists Migrating to Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs)
The survey found that PCPs and specialists have similar rates of cash-only practices (5% and 6% respectively) as well as participation in a concierge model (4% and 3%). 37% of specialists either already do participate or are planning to participate this year in accountable care organizations (ACOs). This number is quite a bit lower than PCPs participation in ACOs, which is at 45%. Also worth noting is the fact that PCP participation in ACOs has increase from 35% last year to 39%.
7. What’s Causing all the Burnout?
The graph below illustrates the number of hours physicians spend per week on paperwork and administrative tasks. These bureaucratic tasks were the number one cause of burnout among respondents according to this year’s Medscape Lifestyle Report. This year’s compensation report suggests that the paperwork issue is only getting worse. For instance, in Medscape’s 2014 report, 35% of employed and 26% of self-employed physicians spent at least 10 hours on paperwork per week. But those numbers have risen dramatically, with 54% of self-employed and 59% of employed physicians spending that much time on paperwork each week.
8. Less Docs Kicking Insurers to the Curb
One of the biggest decreases seen in survey answers this year was the number of physicians who said they would discontinue insurers that pay poorly. Last year saw 22% of docs saying they would, in fact, discontinue, but only 7% said the same this year. Something worth pointing out is that in 2015, 42% of respondents answered “not applicable” whereas this year 60% answered the same. Medscape’s explanation for this is that the increase most likely reflects the growing number of employed (as opposed to self-employed) physicians who do not make these kinds of decisions regarding insurers.
9. Compensation isn’t Everything
One of the most interesting, and perhaps hopeful, takeaways from the survey was that compensation isn’t everything. Physicians on the lower end of the compensation scale said they would most likely make the same career choice again. 34 percent said patient relationships was the most rewarding aspect of the job, while 32 percent said being good at their job was rewarding.
For more insights, view Medscape’s 2016 Physician Compensation Report.