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Medscape Releases 2021 Physician Compensation Report: Key Takeaways

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Key Takeaways

  • Medscape’s annual Physician Compensation Report found that the top 5 physician specialties with the highest salaries are plastic surgery, orthopedics and orthopedic surgery, cardiology, urology, and otolaryngology.
  • Almost one-fourth of providers experienced a reduction in hours worked due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Among primary care providers in 2020, males made 27% more than females, and among specialists, men earned 33% more than their female counterparts.

The Medscape Physician Compensation Report captures information from almost 18,000 physicians in over 29 specialties about their income, bonuses, hours worked, greatest challenges, and the impact of COVID-19 on compensation. We’ve broken down the key takeaways from the report. 

Salary Overview

  • Physicians in both primary care and specialties made approximately the same salaries in 2020 and 2021. 
  • The top 5 physician specialties with the highest salaries are plastic surgery ($526,000/year), orthopedics and orthopedic surgery ($511,000/year), cardiology ($459,000/year), urology ($427,000/year), and otolaryngology ($417,000/year). 
    • Of note, the top earning specialties are the same as last year, with the exception of urology, which moved up. 
  • Specialties such as emergency and internal medicine, dermatology, and pediatrics declined in average salary. 
    • 92% of respondents stated that the COVID-19 pandemic caused their income to decline. 
  • Physicians who are self-employed vs employed by an outside organization make comparable salaries (352,000 vs 300,000). 
  • 59% of primary care providers and 55% of specialists received incentive bonuses based on productivity, patient satisfaction, clinical process, or other goals. 
  • The specialty with the highest salary satisfaction includes oncology (79% feel satisfied with their salary) followed by psychiatry (69%) and plastic surgery (68%).

COVID-19-Related Salary Changes

  • Almost one-fourth of providers experienced a reduction in hours worked due to the COVID-19 pandemic.   
    • Luckily, over half of these respondents had their original hours restored. 
  • Prior to COVID-19, physicians worked approximately 50 hours per week. Currently, the average number of hours worked is 51. 
  • Prior to COVID-19, approximately 76 patients were seen per week. Currently, physicians see about 71 patients per week.
  • On average, primary care physicians’ practices spent $8000 on personal protective equipment (PPE) whereas specialists’ practices spent upwards of $11,000.

Salaries by Gender, Location

  • Among primary care providers in 2020, males made 27% more than females. 
  • Among specialists, men earned 33% more than their female counterparts. 
    • Approximately 61% of pediatricians and ob/GYN providers are women. 
  • Alabama, Kentucky, and Oklahoma are in the top spots for states with the highest salaries among physicians ($348,000, $340,000, and $338,000 per year, respectively).

Administrative Tasks

  • Administrative tasks, such as time devoted to paperwork, electronic health record documentation, administrative and managerial work, participation in professional organizations, and clinical reading took an average of 15.6 hours per week. 
    • Infectious disease administrative tasks took almost 25 hours per week whereas anesthesiology tasks only took 10 hours per week.  
  • The majority of physicians continue to take new and current Medicare and Medicaid patients (75%).
  • More than one-third of physicians (37%) participate in the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS). 
  • For 63% of primary care providers and 61% of specialists, the 2020 incentive target did not change.

Approximately 26% of physicians responded that the most rewarding part of their job was knowing that they make the world a better place by providing care for others. For 23% of physicians, the most challenging part of their job is the amount and rules and regulations associated with the physician profession. 

Almost 80% of current physicians would choose this career path again. 96% of dermatologists, orthopedics and orthopedic surgeons, and oncologists would choose the same specialty again. 

Reference

Kane L. Medscape Physician Compensation Report 2021: The Recovery Begins. Medscape. Published April 16, 2021. Accessed April 19, 2021. 

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