How Much Are You Paying Your Staff?

Shelly Reese


November 21, 2013

In This Article


For physician employers, staff salaries represent the lion's share of practice overhead, but what they get in return for their dollars and cents is invaluable. Whether they're fielding phone calls, coding visits, or treating patients, staff members in a medical practice are an extension of -- and a reflection on -- the physicians who employ them.

What kind of price tag do physicians put on staffers' services? Asked about their employee compensation packages and their staffing plans for the future, physician owners and partners responding to Medscape's first Clinical & Office Staff Salary Report reveal that their priorities lie in employing people who can help them bolster the bottom line by delivering billable services or reducing costs.

Who Earns What?

Medscape surveyed US physicians, from a diverse array of specialties, about the salaries and compensation packages they offer their staff members. The survey was fielded from September 9 to October 7, 2013, and 2399 physicians responded.

Nonclinician employees clearly earn less than the clinical staff. Nearly two thirds (64%) of physicians surveyed say they pay their front-desk staff less than $30,000, despite the fact that front-desk personnel play a critical role in setting the tone of a patient's office visit while facilitating office efficiency by scheduling appointments, fielding calls, making reminder calls, verifying insurance, collecting copayments and, often, billing and coding.

Astute physicians recognize the importance of having the right person out front, says Tommy Bohannon, Divisional Vice President of Recruiting for Merritt Hawkins, an Irving, Texas-based physician recruiting firm, and some are willing to pay accordingly: 35% pay front-desk personnel between $30,000 and $60,000, and a tiny fraction (1%) pay salaries north of $60,000.

"In the private-practice environment, the front-desk staff is the quarterback," Bohannon says. "They have a lot of responsibility to make sure things go as smoothly as possible. You could certainly make an argument that paying a little better to have the right person in that role can increase the productivity of the doctor and improve the patient experience. But at the end of the day, the front-desk person is generally viewed as a logistical manager. It's more a task-oriented job rather than a customer service role."

Employed by only 31% of the practices surveyed, medical records clerks earn even less: 72% of respondents pay their records clerks less than $30,000. Medical billers are more generously compensated: 60% of respondents pay billers between $30,000 and $60,000. The higher pay scale likely reflects the increased demand for billers that has preceded the transition to ICD-10 coding, which goes into effect next October.


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