US Cardiologists See Income Climb in Changing Healthcare Climate

Shelley Wood

April 26, 2013

New York, NY - Salaries for US cardiologists climbed in 2012, making them the second-highest paid specialty, according to the 2013 Medscape Physician Compensation Report. Some intriguing new numbers point to the impact of changes to healthcare delivery in the US, and how those might be expected to influence income and practice.

Mean cardiologist salaries overall were $357 000 in 2012, up from a mean of $314 000 in 2011, and second only to orthopedists at $405 000. Reality may not always match up with perception, however, since one in five cardiologists said their income had decreased by more than 10%, 18% believed it had declined by as much as 10%, and 42% said their income had stayed the same.

In fact, almost one in four cardiologists reported earning over $500 000 (less than 8% said they earned under $100 000). Of note, 'compensation' includes non-patient-related activities, including expert witness fees, speaking fees, and product sales, the report notes.

Male cardiologists, on average, reported making $50 000 more than their female counterparts in 2012. That gap is actually smaller than in last year's survey, at $79 000.

The number of cardiologists now participating in an accountable care organization (ACO) has climbed to 18%, with an additional 14% saying they plan to join in the coming year. That's up from 2% who were ACO participants in 2011, and double the number of those who said last year that they "planned" to participate in an ACO in 2012.

More than one in four cardiologists said they would drop an insurer who paid poorly, while almost one in five responded "no, that's inappropriate behavior."

Twenty-two percent of cardiologists said that they had started providing additional medical services that were previously not considered standard offerings for their specialties in order to increase their income.

As with previous surveys, the majority of cardiologists (58%) said they felt they were not fairly compensated.

Almost 22 000 physicians participated in this year's compensation survey.

Other findings from the survey include:

  • Physicians in the northwest reported the highest annual earnings, while those in the northeast reported the lowest.

  • The highest paid cardiologists worked in single-specialty group practices or were partners in a group practice.

  • Two-thirds of respondents said they will continue to take new and current Medicare/Medicaid patients into their caseload.

  • If they had to do it all over again, 40% of cardiologists said they would choose medicine, and 54% would choose the same specialty.

In responses that sum up this medical specialty, the top response to the question, "What is the most rewarding part of your job?" was a near tie. In all, 35% cited the gratitude and relationships with patients, while 36% responded "being very good at what I do/finding answers, diagnoses."

The full report is available here.

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