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Analysis

Physician Compensation Increased by 3.8% in 2019

By Jack O'Brien  
   September 02, 2020

However, wRVU production "remained stagnant" at 0.56% last year.

Overall physician compensation increased 3.8% according to an AMGA Consulting survey released Wednesday.

While physician compensation rose, work relative value unit (wRVU) production "remained stagnant" with an increase of 0.56% last year. Similarly, compensation per wRVU increased by 2.14% last year, down from the 3.64% increase in 2018.

Broken down by segment, median compensation for primary care specialties increased by 4.46% in 2019, down from an increase of 4.91% in 2018, and compensation per wRVU increased by 2.6%, down from an increase of 3.57% in 2018.

For medical specialties, median compensation increased by 3.52%, up from the 3.39% increase in 2018, while compensation per wRVU declined by 1.75% in 2019 compared to an increase of 2.65% in 2018. 

Related: Docs Dominate Another Highest-Paying Jobs List

According to AMGA Consulting, surgical specialties experienced the "largest increase in productivity of any specialty group, with a median wRVU increase of 1.95%." Additionally, primary care nurse practitioners saw compensation per wRVU increase 3.53% and primary care physician's assistance saw the same metric increase by 0.40%.

Fred Horton, M.H.A., president of AMGA Consulting, said existing market trends related to physician compensation have heightened the "need for a call to action."

"We have now seen this same trend of divergent key metrics for several years in a row, and we have to wonder how long it can continue, given that the vast majority of revenue is still, by and large, generated via work RVU productivity," Horton said in a statement. "AMGA’s members are concerned about this ongoing trend, and we suspect the industry-wide response to COVID-19 will speed up efforts to mitigate this pattern. At the same time, we are seeing revised care models and rapid telehealth expansion. When combined, it is certain that change is taking place, but the ultimate landing place is far from clear."

AMGA Consulting's survey represents the latest analysis of physician compensation over the past year and the uncertainties presented by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak.

In May, Medscape released its annual physician compensation report which found that physician salaries rose from the end of 2019 to the start of 2020 but remain vulnerable to the impact of COVID-19.

Between October 2019 and February 2020, the average annual salary for primary care physicians rose 2.5% to $243,000. Similarly, the average annual salary for specialists rose 1.5% to $346,000. 

Orthopedists and plastic surgeons continue to be the highest paid physicians, both earning north of $475,000 per year, while public health and preventive medicine specialists made just over $230,000 per year.

The highest paid physicians are primarily located in the South, with Kentucky leading the way at an annual salary of $346,000, followed by Tennessee, Florida, and Alabama. 

Related: Physician Compensation Rose Again But COVID-19 Expected to 'Dramatically Alter Landscape'

In June, Medscape released its Physician Debt and Net Worth Report which found that half of physicians have a net worth of less than $1 million and more than 90% live well within their means.

Just over 40% of physicians have a net worth between $1 million to $5 million, according to the report, while less than 10% have a net worth exceeding $5 million.

Related: Medscape: Half of Physicians Have a Net Worth of Less Than $1M

Jack O'Brien is the finance editor at HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

Median compensation for primary care specialties increased by 4.46% in 2019, down from an increase of 4.91% in 2018.

Surgical specialties experienced the "largest increase in productivity of any specialty group, with a median wRVU increase of 1.95%."

For medical specialties, median compensation increased by 3.52%, up from the 3.39% increase in 2018.

Fred Horton, M.H.A., president of AMGA Consulting, said existing market trends related to physician compensation have heightened the "need for a call to action."


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