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Family physicians increase salaries while some specialists post drop


If you're practicing family medicine, you're in luck. Although incomes in some specialties have declined, your pay is on the rise. But don't get too excited just yet.

A new compensation survey shows that physicians in family medicine posted a 1% increase in salaries over last year, whereas some specialties showed modest declines.

Cardiologists lost the most, with salaries falling almost 10%, with obstetricians/gynecologists and neurologists just behind.

Despite the gains, family medicine ranked as the lowest-paying category for doctors, averaging $195,000-compared with radiology ($438,000), orthopedic surgery ($515,000), and oncology ($405,000).

The survey, conducted in April and May by the Medicus Firm, a national recruiter for physicians, tapped responses from more than 2,500 doctors in 18 specialties.

“This year, physicians reported the lowest year-over-year income growth we have seen in the history of our physician survey,” says Jim Stone, president of the Medicus Firm.

Income in 2011 was considered flat overall, and that reality contributed to increased dissatisfaction as well. According to the results, nearly 41% of survey participants expressed dissatisfaction with their income levels. Only 3% said that their income exceeded expectations, and another 32% said they were satisfied with their income.

Nearly 48% of the respondents said their salaries in 2012 will be about the same as they were in 2011, and about 24% predict income declines from last year.

According to the Medicus Firm, 32% of respondents report that reimbursement decreases are limiting incomes the most. Other factors:

  • personal choice,

  • payer mix,

  • patient volume/patient load,

  • changes from healthcare reform,

  • overhead increases, and

  • other.

Nearly 31% of practicing physicians say that a single-specialty group/partnership was the practice arrangement most appealing to them. About 24% ranked hospital employment as the most appealing, whereas just 10% chose owning a solo practice.

For those in training, hospital employment was more appealing (29%) compared with a single-specialty group or partnership (27%).

Also, 24% of physicians in training thought that a university/academic position was most appealing. Comparatively, just 13% of doctors in practice responded in the same way.

For 31% of the participants in practice, the biggest single factor in making a change in practice status focused on financial rewards. For those physicians in training, about 41% sited geographic location as the single most influential factor in making a change.

As might be expected, the two greatest concerns about a doctor’s healthcare practice and career focused on work-life balance and compensation/reimbursements, according to the Medicus Firm.

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First year primary care physicians earn more in single-specialty practices

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Jennifer N. Lee, MD, FAAFP
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