Cardiologists' Pay Matches Last Year, More Are in ACA Exchanges

Marcia Frellick

April 12, 2017

NEW YORK, NY — Cardiologists' annual pay in the US moved from second highest to third in this year's Medscape Cardiologist Compensation Report, even as income remained unchanged compared with last year, at $410,000.

Still, only 50% of cardiologists feel fairly compensated. The specialty with the most salary satisfaction was emergency medicine with 68% and the lowest was nephrology at 41%.

This year, physicians not satisfied with their pay were asked how much more they thought they should make, and among cardiologists, 40% answered 11% to 25%. More than a quarter (28%) answered that they should make 26% to 50% more; 14% said they should earn 76% or more above their current income.

Plastic surgeons, with the greatest surge in income this year at 24% compared with last year, moved into the number-two spot. Orthopedists stayed on top with $489,000, while pediatricians once again had the lowest pay at $202,000, according to this year's Medscape Physician Compensation Report covering US physicians as a whole, which included 19,270 respondents.

Compensation for employed physicians in this survey encompasses salary, bonus, and profit sharing. For partners, compensation includes earnings after taxes and deductible expenses before taxes.

When asked about the most challenging parts of their work, the top answer among cardiologists was "having so many rules and regulations" (31%). Next was "having to work more hours for less pay" (21%); and "having to work with an electronic health records system" (18%).

Burnout remains high across all specialties, and has trended up since 2013, according to the Medscape Lifestyle Report 2017. Cardiologists in that report fell in the middle of specialties reporting burnout, at 52%. Rates were highest for emergency medicine at 59% and lowest for psychiatry and mental health (42%).

Bureaucratic tasks continue to be a main driver of burnout. Cardiologists passed the all-physician average in percentage who spent more than 10 hours a week doing paperwork and administrative tasks (62% vs 56%). Almost a fourth of cardiologists (23%) report they spend more than 20 hours a week on these tasks.

Time with patients decreased this year overall for the specialty: 58% of cardiologists reported spending more than 45 hours with patients; the proportion was 64% the previous year. Most office-based cardiologists (68%) spent between 13 and 24 minutes with each patient, while 11% reported spending at least 25 minutes.

Foreign-trained cardiologists made average of $427,000, 5.7% more than the $404,000 of those trained in the US. For physicians overall, those trained in Canada had the highest average salary at $328,000, followed by US-trained physicians at $301,000.

The number of cardiologists who said they are participating in healthcare exchanges was up considerably from last year, 36% vs 19% in 2016, almost mirroring the increase for all physicians' participating in the exchanges this year.

About half (47%) said their income had not changed because of the exchanges, while 6% said the exchanges had resulted in increased income and 13% said they resulted in decreased income.

Overall, 36% of cardiologists said they have seen an increase in patients due to the Affordable Care Act, up from 25% who answered that way last year.

Again this year, pay gaps persist in gender and location. Cardiologists in the Northwest averaged $526,000, while those in the Northeast averaged $381,000. Women also made 23% less on average: $327,000 vs $420,000 for men.

Although half reported being dissatisfied with pay, overwhelmingly cardiologists in the survey reported that aspects of their job other than pay are more rewarding.

As for what aspect of their job was said to be most rewarding, gratitude from patients and relationships with them topped the list at 38%. "Being very good at what I do/finding answers, diagnoses" was next at 29%, and only 11% said the most rewarding aspect of their jobs was "making good money at a job I like."

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