Endocrinologists Like Patients but Dislike Pay

Norra MacReady

April 26, 2013

They feel underpaid, but they cherish their relationships with their patients. If they had it to do over again, more than half would still go into medicine, but less than 50% would choose the same specialty.

These are some of the findings from 2013 Medscape Physician Compensation Report, published online April 26. The report provides a snapshot of the different ways in which physicians are compensated — not just financially, but through less tangible measures such as work satisfaction — and also garners their opinions on the more tedious aspects of their jobs, such as time spent on paperwork and dealing with insurers. Nearly 22,000 physicians in 25 specialties participated.

In 2012, endocrinologists had a median income of $178,000 per year, placing them among the lower-earning specialties such as pediatrics and family practice. From 2011 to 2012, endocrinologists' earnings remained relatively flat, with 48% saying their income had not changed over the previous year. The single largest group (27%) reported mean earnings of $200,000 to $249,999, still well below the mean of $405,000 reported by orthopedists and $357,000 by cardiologists, the 2 top-earning specialties.

The discrepancy appears to sting: 58% of endocrinologists said they do not feel fairly compensated, compared with 48% of physicians overall. Nearly 1 in 3 (32%) was prepared to drop insurers whose payments were too low. And while 55% of the participating endocrinologists said they would go into medicine if they had it to do all over again, only 45% said they would select endocrinology and only 15% would choose the same practice setting.

Despite the dissatisfaction with their income, endocrinologists on average do not appear to be increasing their patient hours. In 2012, 35% spent 30 to 40 hours per week seeing patients, a figure that has remained constant over the past few Medscape compensation surveys, and slightly higher than the 30% reported by physicians overall. For 29% of the endocrinologists, that works out to 50 to 75 patients per week, up from 24% in 2011.

Similarly, only 19% of endocrinologists reported that they had started offering ancillary services in an effort to boost revenues, compared with 22% of dermatologists and 29% of plastic surgeons.

And while there is still a large gender gap in pay among physicians in general, with men outearning women by 30%, this does not appear to be the case in endocrinology. That gap was only 6% in 2012, much lower than in medicine overall and markedly less than the 28% reported for endocrinologists in 2011.

Fortunately, for many endocrinologists, their main satisfaction lay not in their salaries but in their relationships with patients and pride in a job well done. When asked to identify the most rewarding part of their job, the largest group — 40% — chose being good at what they do or finding answers and diagnoses. Patient relationships came in second, cited by 32%. "Making good money at a job that I like" was way down on the list at 6%.

On the downside, 30% of endocrinologists spent 10 to 14 hours per week on paperwork and administrative activity. An unlucky 27% spent 20 hours or more on these tasks, compared with 17% of family physicians and 20% of oncologists.

The full report is available here.