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Report: Medicare Physician Pay Down 22% in Last 20 Years

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Report: Medicare Physician Pay Down 22% in Last 20 Years

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Doctor pay

When most businesses look to the future, they envision income and revenue rising incrementally over time, and medical practices are no exception. However, the results of a new survey show that when adjusted for inflation, Medicare physician pay dropped 22 percent between 2001 and 2021.

That’s the word from the 2023 Physician Compensation Report by Doximity, which outlines not only where and why physician pay is falling, but also lists which specialties are bringing in the most income. To create the report, Doximity surveyed more than 190,000 full-time doctors over a six-year period and plotted the gains and losses it tracked during that time.

To get a handle on the latest doctor pay statistics so you can evaluate whether your practice might need to find new revenue streams, check out some of the report’s highlights.

Average Doctor Pay Fell 2.4% in 2022

Doctors didn’t see their pay rise last year—in fact, the opposite happened. Pay declined 2.4% in 2022, versus an increase of 3.8% in 2021. With practice expenses continuing to be on the rise due to the safety and sanitation protocols that have remained in place despite the end of the PHE, that has made practice management a more expensive venture this year than ever before.

When it comes to areas of the United States and physician pay, Charlotte, N.C. nabbed the top spot, with average compensation of $430,890. Next on the list were St. Louis, MO, Oklahoma City, OK, and San Jose, CA. Of note, Charlotte and St. Louis also led the pack last year.

As for the lowest paid physicians, they were found in Washington, D.C., with an average compensation of $342,139. Washington was followed by Baltimore, MD, Boston, MA, and San Antonio, TX.

The metropolitan areas that saw the biggest compensation increases last year included Oklahoma City, where pay rose 6.3%, Baltimore (up 4.6%) and Salt Lake City, UT (up 2.9%).

Male Doctors Earn $110K More Than Female Counterparts

The study revealed that a vast gender pay gap exists between male and female doctors, with a 26% gap between annual pay for the two genders. Average pay for male doctors is almost $110,000 more than that of their female counterparts, even when the salaries were controlled for location, years of experience and specialty.

The specialty with the largest gender pay gap was oral and maxillofacial surgery, where male providers average $568,789 annually and female physicians bring in $395,687 each year. The smallest pay gap was seen among nuclear medicine specialists, where male providers earned about $394,231 and females brought in $382,431.

Physician Burnout Is Rising

Not only do female physicians earn less, but they also note that they are overworked more than men. About 92% of female respondents said they were overworked, versus 83% of male respondents.

Some two-thirds of physicians surveyed say they’re considering a change in their employment, either leaving for another position elsewhere, considering early retirement, or thinking about changing careers completely. A startling 71 percent of survey respondents said they’d take less pay if they could improve their work-life balance.

Neurosurgeons, Thoracic Surgeons Among Highest Paid Specialties

The specialties with the highest pay were largely those that treated adults and performed surgeries, while the lowest-paid specialties were mainly primary care and pediatric specialists.

The highest paid specialty was neurosurgery, with average pay of $788,313, followed by thoracic surgery, orthopedic surgery and plastic surgery.

The lowest-paid specialists were in the pediatric endocrinology field, averaging $218,266 per year. Next on the list of lower-paying specialties were pediatric infectious disease, pediatric rheumatology and pediatric hematology and oncology.

In terms of the specialties that saw the biggest income growth last year, emergency medicine led the pack with 6.2% growth. Most specialties saw compensation fall or remain stagnant when compared to 2021 rates.

What Might This Mean for Practice Management?

Based on the results of this survey, physicians are clearly feeling overworked—and that’s in light of increasingly worse reimbursement from payers. This could increase pressure on practice managers to find ways to meet the following needs:

  • Optimize scheduling to improve physician productivity and morale
  • Invest in technological tools that help providers with more efficient patient care and documentation
  • Boost your accounts receivable processes to bring in maximum pay
  • Optimize your denial management system to follow up on denials and bring in more cash
  • Train front desk staff to collect for copays, deductibles and other fees before patients leave
  • Consider new income streams, like charging for patient forms
  • Remain compliant with HIPAA and regulatory requirements to ensure you don’t face scrutiny, fines or chargebacks
  • Train providers on accurate E/M leveling so they don’t under code these visits
  • Perform frequent self-audits to ensure your processes are working correctly and you aren’t leaking reimbursement anywhere

Seeking ways to bring in more cash at your practice amid falling reimbursement rates? Check out our essential three-part series, Patient Billing Tactics: Compliantly Get Paid More. You’ll learn tips and strategies to help you bring in all the cash you’re ethically entitled to. Register today!

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