Compensation: Are Physicians Better Off Now Than 6 Years Ago?

Carol Peckham


April 01, 2016

In This Article

Are Physicians Working Harder?

Hours per Week Seeing Patients

The number of hours spent seeing patients has shifted over time. In the 2012 Medscape survey, 22% of physicians spent 30-40 hours per week seeing patients, and nearly one half (49%) spent more time than that. This year, over one half (51%) spent 30-40 hours per week with patients and about one third (34%) spent more time (Figure 5).

According to a government analysis, middle-aged physicians work harder than their younger and their older peers. In fact, those between age 46 and 55 years work more hours now than they did in previous years, whereas doctors aged 36-45 years work fewer hours than previously—perhaps because of the increase in women in those age groups, many of whom are working part-time.[6]

Figure 5.

Hours Per Week Spent With Patients: 2012-2016*
* There were no data on this question in 2015 for all physicians.

Minutes Personally Spent With Each Patient

The amount of physician face time with a patient is often an issue, and lately both physicians and patients complain that this time has been getting shorter. However, results of our 2016 survey were consistent with all surveys since 2011: The largest time category of patient visits with the physician is 13-16 minutes, followed by 17-20 minutes. Previous research found that female physicians spend more time with patients than their male counterparts.[20] Indeed, in the 2012 Medscape Compensation report, 55% of female physicians spent more than 17 minutes with their patients, compared with 48% of men. This of course is influenced by some of the specialties more commonly chosen by women; there are very few female physicians in critical and emergency care, which have shorter physician visits. In this year's report, however, the difference had diminished, with 41% of men and 49% of women spending over 17 minutes, and there were only slight differences in the other time categories.

Hours per Week Spent on Paperwork and Administration

Bureaucratic tasks were the prime cause of burnout, according to this year's Medscape Lifestyle Report (as in previous ones as well). Second was spending too many hours at work. Medscape compensation reports suggest that the paperwork problem is only getting worse. In the 2014 report 35% of employed and 26% of self-employed physicians spent at least 10 hours a week on paperwork. This year, over one half of physicians spent this amount of time, with slightly fewer self-employed (54%) than employed physicians (59%).

A 2005 study on family physicians reported that 55% of their time was spent with patients, with only 34 minutes (or 6.5% of their workday) spent on paperwork. Almost one fifth of their time was spent on patient-related work not involving care, such as writing up notes, making calls, and interpreting laboratory results.[21]


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