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Physician Compensation Rises Across Most Specialties

Analysis  |  By Jack O'Brien  
   May 31, 2019

Pay for primary care physicians rose 3.4% between 2017 and 2018, according to a new MGMA study.

Physician compensation continues to rise, as primary care, specialty, and advance practice providers experienced pay growth in recent years, according to an MGMA study released Thursday.

During the last five years, total compensation for all providers increased at a rate between 7% to 11%, according to data from nearly 150,000 physicians and non-physician providers.

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Between 2017 and 2018, pay for specialty physicians increased 4.4%, primary care physicians rose 3.4%, and advance practice providers jumped 2.9%.

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Over the same period of time, the most notable increases in total physician compensation came from five areas: diagnostic radiology, obstetrics and gynecology, neurological surgery, noninvasive cardiology, and neurology. 

In a statement accompanying the study, Halee Fischer-Wright, MD, MMM, FAAP, FACMPE, CEO of MGMA, said that the findings serve as relevant information for medical practices to remain competitive and attract talent in the face of a growing physician shortage.

"The increases we are seeing are driven not only by supply and demand but also by an increase in productivity,"Fischer-Wright said in a statement. "Practices are staying ahead of the curve by monitoring these trends and in this case, offering higher wages and more incentives to attract and retain the talent they need."

The MGMA study found that new doctors are being offered more in salary given the physician shortage plaguing the healthcare industry, with "steady increases" in median guaranteed compensation between 2017 and 2018.

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Growth in guaranteed compensation for new hires by specialty:

  • Emergency medicine: 40.43%, from $207,360 to $291,194
  • Cardiology: 21.25%, from $400,000 to $485,000
  • Urology physicians: 20%, from $312,500 to $375,000 

Additionally, non-physician providers experienced growth as well, as physician assistants experienced compensation growth of 10.35% and nurse practitioners increased by 4%. 

Geographically, the midwest and south led the way for physician compensation in 2018, while the east region reported the lowest compensation levels.

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Jack O'Brien is the Content Team Lead and Finance Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.


Between 2017 and 2018, compensation for specialty physicians increased 4.4%.

Emergency medicine physicians experienced the largest growth in guaranteed compensation for new hires.

Geographically, the midwest and south led the way for physician compensation in 2018.

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