Doctor pay is climbing after early-pandemic hunch

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diving letter:

  • Doctors’ earnings are picking up again after stagnating at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and falling in many cases as practices closed and patients stayed at home, a new study said Physician Compensation Report by Medscape. Salary increases by specialty ranged from 13% for otolaryngology to 1% for critical care.
  • Earnings rose in more than two dozen areas of expertise in the report, a first since the medical information site began publishing its compensation survey 11 years ago, although the broad-based strength may reflect some year-over-year catch-up. The 2022 report also showed that gender and racial and ethnic differences persist.
  • Overall, doctors earned an average of $339,000 last year, specialists $368,000, and primary care physicians $260,000, according to Medscape. Total compensation includes salary, bonuses, and profit-sharing for salaried physicians, and earnings after taxes and deductible operating expenses before income tax for self-employed physicians.

Dive insight:

Although not every doctor’s salary improves every year, the Medscape survey found that in general Doctors’ incomes were at one pitch increased by a total of 29% since 2015. This includes a 33% increase for GPs over the last seven years and a 30% increase for specialists.

The poll conducted 5 Oct to 19 Jan, Echoes findings from a similar compensation review from medical network Doximity, where doctors reported their paychecks increased 3.8% overall from 2020 to 2021, up from a 1.5% increase a year earlier.

Still 21% of doctors in the Medscape survey saw their income in the last period has decreased compared to the previous year. Most respondents (70%) attributed the drop in wages to pandemic-related factors, including job losses, reduced working hours or reduced patient traffic, while 44% linked their drop in earnings to issues unrelated to COVID-19. In the first year of the pandemic, 92% said the public health emergency impacted their income.

The analysis found that the wage gap between men and women in basic services has increased slightly over the past decade, even though overall wages have increased. Men earned an average of 25% more salary than women in this year’s survey, compared to 23% in 2012. But the gender gap among specialists, at 31%, is narrower than the 37% reported in 2017, possibly because more women are higher board-paying specialties, the report said.

Physicians of all racial and ethnic groups have seen their earnings increase over the past five years, but black, Hispanic and Asian American physicians lag their white counterparts at $313,000, $328,000 and $329,000, respectively, compared to $346,000.

The report also found that 36% of doctors took on side jobs to supplement their income, with 19% doing other medical-related work, 6% adding more hours to their main job, and 6% taking on non-medical jobs.

Of the various specialties captured in the Medscape survey, the highest-paying specialties were plastic surgery at $576,000, orthopedics at $557,000, cardiology at $490,000, ear, nose and throat at $469,000, and urology at $461,000. At the low end were Infectious Diseases at $260,000, Diabetes and Endocrinology at $257,000, Family Medicine at $255,000, Pediatrics at $244,000, and Public Health and Preventive Medicine at $243,000.

Orthopedic specialists received the largest awards this year, averaging $126,000, followed by specialists in ophthalmology, cardiology, gastroenterology and urology. At the lower end of the premiums were pediatricians, with an average premium of $28,000. Overall, 57% of the physicians surveyed received performance bonuses.