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Orthos Top Physician Compensation List in 2017

News  |  By John Commins  
   April 07, 2017

Physicians as a class of laborers are the highest paid professionals in the nation, yet only 48% of orthopedic surgeons say they are "fairly compensated" for their work.

Orthopedic surgeons are the highest paid class of physician specialists, but most of them aren't very happy about it, a compensation survey shows.

The 2017 Medscape Physician Compensation Report, which compiled responses from more than 19,200 physicians in 27 specialties, shows that orthopedic surgeons' annual compensation averaged $489,000, nearly $50,000 more than plastic surgeons, the second-highest average annual earners.

However, the survey also found that 48% of orthopedic surgeons felt they weren't "fairly compensated" for their labors, even as their income increased by an average of 10% in the past year, one of the highest rates of growth among specialists.

The orthopedic surgeons are not sulking alone.

About half of physicians said they weren't satisfied with their compensation. Of those malcontents, 46% of primary care physicians and 41% of specialists said an increase of between 11% to 25% would make them smile.

One-third of the physicians in both groups said a compensation hike of 26% to 50% would be even better.

In general, the survey found that primary care physicians were more inclined to push for lower-percentage increases. An outlier 5% of primary care physicians and 7% of specialists said their pay should double.

Emergency medicine physicians, more than any other specialty, said they were fairly compensated (68%), even though they're No. 12 on the annual compensation list with an average of $339,000.

The Medscape report reaffirms any number of other surveys that show that physicians as a class of laborers are the highest paid professionals in the nation.

The Medscape Survey also found that:

  • Caucasian physicians had the highest annual earnings, at $303,000, followed by Asians, $283,000; Latinos, $271,000; and African Americans, $262,000.
  • Physicians in North Dakota had the highest state average compensation, $361,000; while physicians in the District of Columbia had the lowest annual average compensation, $235,000.
  • Self-employed specialists averaged $368,000, while their employed colleagues averaged $287,000; self-employed primary care physicians averaged $223,000; and their employed colleagues averaged $214,000.
  • Male primary care physicians averaged $229,000, while female primary care physicians averaged $192,000, a 16% percent differential that narrowed slightly (1%) in the past year. Male specialists averaged $345,000 and female specialists averaged $251,000, a 37% gap that grew by 4% in the past year.
  • 11% of male and 22% of female physicians work part-time, which the survey defined as less than 40 hours per week -- a slight decrease from 2016.
  • 57% of Caucasian doctors said they were fairly compensated; about half of Asian, Latino and African-American doctors said they were not.
  • Only 3% of respondents said they used a concierge payment model, with an average compensation of $300,000. Six percent rely on cash-only models and averaged $310,000 annually.
  • 69% of physicians said they will continue to take new Medicare/Medicaid patients; 6% won't take new Medicare/Medicaid patients; 2% won't take current Medicare/Medicaid patients; 7% are undecided; and 15% are not applicable.
  • 35% of respondents are participating in healthcare exchanges in 2017, up from 19% in 2016.
  • 13% of primary care physicians and 15% of specialists who participated in exchanges said they lost money, while 6% and 5%, respectively, said compensation increased.
  • 34% of office-based solo practitioners, 26% of single specialty, and 17% of multispecialty group practices charged for no-shows.
  • 59% of physicians spent between 13 and 24 minutes with their patients; 57% of physicians said they spent 10 hours or more each week on paperwork.

In 2011, the average physician annual compensation was $206,000, and in 2017, the average was $294,000, with specialists averaging $316,000 and primary care physicians averaging $217,000, 46% less. That gap is barely narrowing.

The survey found that annual compensation increases averaged less than 1% for internal and family medicine, and that the average compensation decreased by 1% for pediatricians.

John Commins is a content specialist and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.

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