High Incomes, Middling Satisfaction: US Cardiologist Compensation in 2014

Shelley Wood

April 16, 2014

NEW YORK, NY — Cardiology held onto its spot as the second-highest-paid specialty in 2013, according to the annual Medscape Cardiologist Compensation Report , and the wide gap in pay between male and female cardiologists has continued to shrink, albeit slightly, dropping to $47 000 from $50 000 in 2012 and $79 000 in 2011.

Of note, 47% of women cardiologists say they are satisfied with their income ($309K), compared with 44% of men ($356K). Ranked on their overall career satisfaction, which took into account choice of specialty and income satisfaction, cardiologists were in the middle of the pack, with an overall satisfaction score of 53%—the same as rheumatologists, pathologists, ophthalmologists, and critical-care physicians. That's behind the most satisfied, dermatologists (at 65%), and least satisfied, plastic surgeons (at 45%).

Fifty-five percent of cardiologists surveyed said they would choose medicine again as a career, and 61% would choose the same specialty, although just 24% said they'd chose the same practice setting. That's a brighter picture than last year, when just 40% of cardiologists said they would choose medicine again and 54% said they'd choose the same specialty.

New in this year's survey were questions relating to health insurance exchanges. More than half of the cardiologists surveyed said they were not yet sure whether they would participated in health insurance exchanges, and 17% said they were already planning not to participate. Over half also said they expected their incomes to decrease as a result of health insurance exchanges.

A full 28% of cardiologists surveyed now say they participate in accountable-care organizations (ACOs), with 14% saying they are planning to join one this year. That's up from 18% (with 14% planned) in 2012.

In a similar vein, 70% of self-employed and 73% of employed cardiologists said they are continuing to take new and have current Medicare/Medicaid patients. At the opposite end of the spectrum, 7% of self-employed and 3% of employed said they are not taking new Medicare/Medicaid patients.

One in four cardiologists surveyed said they would drop insurers that pay poorly, while the same proportion responded: "No, that's inappropriate behavior."

In other survey findings, self-employed cardiologists continue to make more than those employed by hospitals and other institutions, $368K compared with $341K, on average. But examining cardiologist compensation by practice setting offers a more nuanced picture: cardiologists working in outpatient clinics reported the highest compensation ($413K), while office-based solo practices reported compensation at $296K. Cardiologists working in nonhospital academic, research, military, or government settings reported the lowest compensation, at $233K.

An increasing thorn in the side of cardiologists, paperwork and admin work take up 10 hours or more per week for roughly one-third of cardiologists surveyed

Cardiologists made up 3% of the more than 24 000 physicians surveyed in the full Physician Compensation Report 2014 , recruited between December 11, 2013 and January 24, 2014.

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