Rheumatologists' Pay Up 9%

Marcia Frellick

April 18, 2018

Rheumatologists' pay increased 9% to $257,000 in this year's Medscape Compensation report.

The size of the bump fell toward the higher end in a range of compensation changes among specialties, from a 16% increase for psychiatrists to a 9% drop for general surgeons. Last year, rheumatologists reported a 1% gain in the survey.

Plastic surgeons had the highest compensation this year, at $501,000. Public health and preventive medicine had the lowest, at $199,000.

Most Would Choose Medicine Again, but Not Rheumatology

Although rheumatologists were close to the top among specialties in which members said they would choose medicine again, they were near the bottom in saying they would choose their specialty again.

Only 72% said they would choose rheumatology again; the only two specialties that fell lower on that measure were public health and preventive medicine (68%) and nephrology (52%).

Gender gaps were evident between two racial/ethnic groups of rheumatologists. Among Asian rheumatologists, women far outnumber men (63% to 37%), and among whites, men far outnumber women (71% - 29%). The report authors calculated numbers in other racial groups, but these were too small to be included in the comparison.

Self-employed rheumatologists made far more than their employed counterparts ($346,000 vs $225,000). However, most in the specialty (70%) report they are employed. More female than male rheumatologists report they are employed (78% vs 65%), which may explain part of a gender pay gap. As in all years of the survey, men in the specialty were paid more, this year $267,000 vs $243,000 for women.

Women were more likely to work part time in rheumatology (18% vs 13% of men), but this survey compares only full-time compensation, so that would not explain the gap, the authors say.

Most Feel They Are Fairly Compensated

Although rheumatologists had below-average pay, 63% reported they felt fairly compensated. Emergency medicine physicians felt the most fairly compensated (74%), and physical medicine and rehabilitation physicians felt the least fairly compensated (46%).

Amount of pay did not necessarily correspond with opinions on fairness of compensation. For instance, only 51% of orthopedists felt fairly compensated, although they were second-highest paid, at $497,000.

Among rheumatologists who were not satisfied with pay, 54% said they felt they should make 11% to 25% more, and 34% said they should make 26% to 50% more.

Almost all rheumatologists said they would continue to accept current and new Medicare and Medicaid patients (89%), despite administrative challenges. Most of the rest (10%) said they were undecided.

Physicians were asked whether and how often they talked with patients about the costs of care amid the rise in high-deductible health plans and calls for transparency.

Almost all rheumatologists said they occasionally (23%) or regularly (73%) talk about costs with their patients. Only 4% said they never do.

More than three fourths of rheumatologists (78%) reported they spend 30 to 45 hours per week seeing patients. That was up substantially from last year, when 66% reported spending that amount of time. This year, 8% reported spending 46 to 55 hours a week seeing patients in comparison with 20% who reported that amount in 2017.

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