Large Gender Gap Seen in Physician Compensation

John Commins, May 11, 2017

Male primary care physicians earn 17% percent more than females, while males in specialty care are paid 37% more than females in the same field, an MGMA survey finds.

Age, gender, specialty and productivity are key factors in physician pay, survey data shows.

The Medical Group Management Association's 2017 Physician Compensation and Production Survey, released this week, uses comparative data of more than 120,000 providers across more than 6,600 groups and represents several practice models, including physician-owned, hospital-owned, academic practices, as well as providers from across the nation at small and large practices.

"Our annual survey found that, in aggregate, gender disparity exists for physician compensation," said Halee Fischer-Wright, CEO and president of Englewood, CO-based MGMA. "Knowing what factors contribute to the gender pay gap help us better understand and interpret the cause."

Highlights from the survey include:

Specialty

Specialty area influences the disparity in total compensation with males across all specialty areas earning more than their female counterparts. Males practicing in primary care reported earning 17% higher compensation while males in specialty care reported earning 37% more than females in the same practice area.

Experience

Survey results show that the number of years in a specialty area may play a role in the gap in total compensation.

Males are paid more than 20% more than females in the specialty areas of family medicine and general pediatrics, but have an average of seven years more experience than their female counterparts who participated in the study.

As there are now more females graduating from medical schools than males, females represent a greater percentage of the population of physicians that are early in their career.

Productivity
Productivity increasingly is a significant factor in the development of physician compensation packages. Males in invasive-interventional cardiology are making over 25% more than their female counterparts, but show 42% greater median work relative value units (RVUs), a measure of value used in the Medicare reimbursement formula.

Male general orthopedic surgeons make almost 50% more than their female counterparts with more than 80% greater median work RVUs. The large difference in the data may be due to the number of women in these specialty areas and how much experience they have.

Suzanne Leonard Harrison, MD, president of the American Medical Women's Association, says that experience and specialties alone do not account for the disparity in pay between the sexes.

"There are several studies that have looked closely at this, and even with those factors considered, women physicians are often paid less than men," Harrison wrote in an email exchange with HealthLeaders.

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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