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July 20, 2015

New rankings: The physician specialties with the largest pay increases

Daily Briefing

Between 2013 and 2014, physicians' average pay increased among 20 specialties but declined among three specialties, according to the 22nd annual Modern Healthcare Physician Compensation Survey.

For the survey, Modern Healthcare researchers analyzed compensation data from 12 health care organizations, including the Medical Group Management Association and the American Medical Group Association.

MGMA: Primary care doctors' pay has jumped nearly 10% since 2012

The survey found that urologists' compensation increased by more than 5% last year—the biggest pay bump in the survey—to $423,260 on average. The next largest pay increases came in:

  • Invasive cardiology, at 4.8%;
  • Dermatology, at 4.7%;
  • Gastroenterology, at 4.2%; and
  • Radiation oncology, at 3.9%.

Among the specialties that saw a pay increase last year, 16 averaged below 4%. Overall, 19 specialties experienced an increase exceeding the consumer inflation rate of 1.6%. Just five out of 12 specialties in 2013 had an increase that exceeded the Consumer Price Index of 1.5%.

Meanwhile, physicians' compensation in 2014 declined by almost 2% for oncology/hematology, and slightly dipped for plastic surgery and obstetrics/gynecology.

Reason for modest pay hikes

The slight increase in pay among certain specialties can be attributed to a number of factors, particularly the slow growth of health care spending, Steven Ross Johnson writes for Modern Healthcare.

Inside doctors' finances: Which specialties take longest to pay off med school?

"What you're picking up as a relatively small increase in physician compensation is consistent with the small rate of increase in overall spending," says Richard Scheffler, director of the University of California-Berkeley's Global Center for Health Economics and Policy Research (Ross Johnson, Modern Healthcare, 7/18).

The problem with physician compensation

The conventional wisdom on physician compensation states that an organization should outline its strategic goals and objectives, link physician compensation accordingly, and that physician engagement and the desired results will naturally follow.

But what if it turns out that this model is backward? What if the science of motivation told us that compensation can act as a barrier to physician engagement and subsequent positive outcomes? What if in our quest for improvement, we might actually be pulling levers that are hurting the engagement and hindering the performance of our best physicians?

So, how should you be thinking about compensation? Our Medical Group Strategy Council has the answer.


More from today's Daily Briefing
  1. Current ArticleNew rankings: The physician specialties with the largest pay increases

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