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90th Annual Physician Report Finds Stagnant Wage Growth, Gender Pay Gaps

Medical Economics report finds just 22% of physicians reported a rise in compensation during 2018.

An annual report, comprising responses from 1300 physicians nationwide, found that salaries in 2018 for most were stagnant, with less than a quarter of respondents seeing a boost in compensation.

The report, created by Medical Economics®, found that more than half of physicians saw compensation that was the same as the year before, while 26% reported a drop in income.

“We had 1300 physicians participating in this nationwide survey,” Daniel Verdon, vice president of content and strategy for MultiMedia Healthcare, LLC, said in a statement. “This survey, with a 90-year history, provides accurate benchmarks on compensation for primary care and many other subspecialties. It also delivers insightful feedback from physicians on important topics like malpractice insurance, work-life balance, and other areas.”

The 90th Annual Physician Report was released earlier this month and details physician-reported data on a range of topics from salary by specialty, income year over year, and even discrepancies in the pay gap between male and female physicians. Specialties and subspecialties in the report include internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics, cardiology, obstetrics/gynecology, dermatology, and urology.

This year, the survey found that more than half of physicians reported a stagnant income and only 22% of respondents experienced a boost in compensation.

One of the common themes among respondents in the survey was the burden of uncompensated tasks, such as prior authorizations, on lost productivity and revenue. Other reasons reported by physicians included high overhead, lower reimbursement, government regulations, difficulty collecting, greater technology costs, and penalties from quality metrics. The top reasons for seeing an increase in compensation were seeing more patients, change in practice model, receiving pay-for-performance, renegotiated payer contacts, and the addition of ancillary services.

In addition to painting an accurate picture of physicians’ salaries across the nation, the report also highlighted to discrepancies in pay between male and female physicians. Female respondents to the annual survey reported a median annual income of $175,000, while their male counterparts reported an income of $275,000. On the high end of salaries, 10% of male respondents reported earning $500,000 or more during 2018 and only 3% of female respondents reached that threshold.

Among the specialties and subspecialties included in the report, dermatology and cardiology had the highest median pre-tax income during 2018 at $425,000. Urologists had a median pre-tax income of $375,000, while OB/GYN’s had a median pre-tax income of $275,000. Pediatrics, internal medicine, and family medicine specialties all had a median pre-tax income of $225,000 during 2018.

Sara Schultz, MD, with the Division of Infectious Diseases & HIV Medicine at Drexel College of Medicine, who is also a Contagion® Editorial Advisory Board member and Section Editor, said the results of the survey were not all that surprising to her.

"As long as power to make decisions about reimbursement and compensation is consolidated at the top, then those decisions will reflect the interests of profit and prioritize efficiency over the well-being of doctors who are faced with more student debt than ever before," Schultz said. "Part of the tension here is that historically, physicians have not been reimbursed based on the quality of care they provide, but rather the speed at which they can see patients. As you can imagine, this does not lead to high compensation for thoughtful and comprehensive care. And remember, as ID doctors or other non-procedural sub-specialists, we are paid far less to use our brains than those doctors who get paid to use their hands."

The report also detailed differences in pay among physicians based upon their workplace or employer. Physicians employed by the government had the lowest average income at $206,000, which is almost $100,000 less than physicians employed by private practices. Private practice physicians, who were the top earners on average, had an average income of $301,000 in 2018. Physicians in a hospital-owned practice reported an average income of $288,000, those employed by in-patient hospitals earned $278,000 on average, and those employed by a nonprofit had an average income of $228,000.

More information about the 90th Annual Physician Report and its findings can be found on the Medical Economics website.

This article originally appeared on MDMag.com.