US Cardiologists Near Top in Physician Compensation, but Satisfaction Falls Short

Deborah Brauser

April 21, 2015

NEW YORK, NY — For the third year in a row, cardiologists are listed as the second-highest-paid specialty in the just-released Medscape 2015 Cardiologist Compensation Report. The annual report noted that in 2014, cardiologists reported being paid an average of $376,000 per year (up from the average of $351,000 in last year's report)—which was topped once again only by orthopedists at $421,000 per year.

While the figures were very similar between the sexes for self-employed cardiologists ($408K and $402K for men and women, respectively), there was a much wider gap between men and women employed by others ($373K and $252K, respectively).

"Women tend to work shorter hours and fewer weeks than men, which may help account for the lower female compensation," notes the report.

Only 35% of female cardiologists reported being satisfied with their income, which is down from the 47% who said they were satisfied in the last report. Interestingly, the women were more satisfied than the men last year, but that was reversed this year. A total of 46% of the men reported income satisfaction in the 2015 report vs 44% in the 2014 report.

Overall, cardiologists ranked sixth out of the 26 specialties surveyed in terms of overall career satisfaction (55%), but they tied with oncologists and plastic surgeons for 17th place in terms of being satisfied with their income (44%).

When asked if they would choose medicine again if they had the chance to "do it all over again," 61% of the respondents said yes (vs 55% last year and just 40% the year before); 59% said they would choose the same specialty again. However, only 19% said they would choose the same practice setting.

Self-employed cardiologists reported making $52,000 more than their employed counterparts. Possible factors cited for this discrepancy include changes in CPT codes, meaningful-use penalties, and payment-reporting websites. Still, 51% of the employed vs 32% of the self-employed physicians reported that they felt fairly compensated.

The highest-paid practice setting was office-based multispecialty group practices ($419K) and the lowest-paid settings were academic, research, military, or government centers ($286K), followed by outpatient clinics ($298K). Interestingly, cardiologists in outpatient settings ranked the highest for income by practice setting in last year's compensation report, at $413K.

Geographically, the Southwest and the Northwest regions were neck-in-neck for the title of US region with the highest-paid cardiologists, at $486K and $484K, respectively. The lowest paid region was the Northeast, at $322K.

When it came to payment models, accountable care organizations (ACOs) had the largest participation at 35%, a 7% rise from last year and a 17% increase from 2012. The lowest participation was in cash-only (3%) and concierge practices (2%).

Last year, 73% of employed and 70% of self-employed cardiologists reported that they continue taking new and seeing their current Medicare or Medicaid patients. This year, those numbers went up to 81% and 74%, respectively. The 3% and 7% rates for employed and self-employed respondents who said they had stopped taking on this type of new patients mirrored last year's numbers exactly. The number of those undecided about taking on these patients, however, decreased from 23% of the employed cardiologists in the 2014 report to 14% in this year's version. The number of self-employed reporting that they were undecided on this issue remained at 18%.

A total of 16 minutes or less was the time spent per patient visit by 54% of the respondents. Of these, 5% reported spending less than 9 minutes per visit. A total of 10% reported spending 25 minutes or more with each patient.

Finally, paperwork and administrative tasks continued to eat away at cardiologists' time: 65% reported spending at least 10 hours a week on this.

Of the 19,657 physicians surveyed in the full Physician Compensation Report 2015, 3% of the respondents were cardiologists. All participants were recruited between December 30, 2014 and March 11, 2015.


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