Physician Compensation: Doctors Adapting to a New Reality


April 15, 2014

In This Article

Satisfaction With Compensation Has Not Changed Much in the Past 4 Years

In 2013, 50% of all physicians said they feel fairly compensated; 48% of primary care physicians feel fairly compensated. These figures are extremely close to the 2011 report percentages, in which 48% of all physicians said they felt fairly compensated and 51% of primary care physicians felt that way.

The specialties that feel the most fairly compensated are dermatology (64%), emergency medicine (61%), pathology (59%), and psychiatry (59%). Family medicine (50%) and internal medicine (46%) score around the middle of the pack. Least satisfied with their compensation are plastic surgeons (37%), pulmonologists (39%), neurologists (41%), and endocrinologists (41%).

Ancillary Services Are Still Popular for Bringing in More Income

The specialties that most frequently offer ancillary services are orthopedics (33%), anesthesiology (31%), and gastroenterology (28%). In primary care, about 23% of family physicians and 20% of internists are offering ancillary services.

Discussing Treatment Costs With Patients Varies by Specialty

Cost is a huge factor in treating patients -- in some specialties more than others. Still, particularly in large health systems, treatment costs are most likely to be discussed with the billing staff rather than with the physician. Overall, in Medscape's 2014 survey report, 32% of physicians regularly discuss the cost of treatment with patients; 40% discuss it if the patient brings it up. Only 19% of surgeons regularly discuss the cost of procedures with patients, while 41% of ophthalmologists have this discussion regularly.

Paperwork Takes Up a Huge Chunk of Time

Not unexpectedly, self-employed doctors spend more time on paperwork than do employed doctors. About 29% of self-employed doctors say they spend from 1 to 4 hours on paperwork per week compared with 24% of employed doctors. And 31% of self-employed doctors say they spend 5 to 9 hours on paperwork vs 28% of employed doctors.

One category in which employed physicians spend more time on paperwork vs self-employed physicians was 20 to 24 hours per week; 12% of employed doctors spend that amount of time compared with 6% of self-employed doctors It's likely that this situation relates to physicians who are in administration, academia, or perhaps are involved with clinical trials.

Time Spent With the Patient

The amount of time spent with the patient has not changed significantly in the past few years. Comparing 2010 and 2013:

See patients for 13 to 16 minutes: 2010: 21%; 2013: 29%

See patients for 9 to 12 minutes: 2010: 16%; 2013: 18%

See patients for 17 to 20 minutes: 2010: 17%; 2013: 25%

See patients for 25 minutes or more: 2010:15%; 2013: 13%

Despite the frustrations, most physicians find their careers deeply rewarding. Being good at their jobs, having good relationships with patients, and making the world a better place were cited as key factors in making the practice of medicine worth the effort.


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