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Physician Survey Shows Downward Trend in Compensation

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Physician Survey Shows Downward Trend in Compensation

Physician income declined in general, although the top-earning specialties remained the same as in Medscape's 2011 survey. In 2012, radiologists and orthopedic surgeons topped the list at $315,000, followed by cardiologists ($314,000), anesthesiologists ($309,000), and urologists ($309,000). Previously, radiologists and orthopedic surgeons led the pack, at a mean income of $350,000 each, followed by anesthesiologists and cardiologists (both at $325,000). The bottom-earning specialties in 2012's survey were pediatrics, family medicine, and internal medicine.

For employed physicians, compensation includes salary, bonus, and profit-sharing contributions. For partners, compensation includes earnings after tax-deductible business expenses but before income tax. Compensation excludes non-patient-related activities (eg, expert witness fees, speaking engagements, and product sales).

Although decreased reimbursement has been the recent buzz-phrase, some specialties saw modest gains, whereas others saw significant declines. The biggest income increases were in ophthalmology (+9%), pediatrics (+5%), nephrology (+4%), rheumatology (+4%), and oncology (+4%). For declines, the largest were in general surgery (-12%), orthopedic surgery (-10%), radiology (-10%), and emergency medicine (-8%).

Don't write off private practice! Although physicians are rushing toward employment, partners in private practice far outearned physicians in any other work environment. For physician respondents overall, partners in private practice earned a mean of $308,000. Solo-practice owners earned a mean of $222,000, while employed physicians earned a mean of $194,000.

"Owners of practices are busier than hospital-employed doctors," said Bohannon. "Medium-sized groups do well because of economies of scale and greater bargaining power with health plans."