The Medscape Physician Compensation Survey

Paul Levy

First published 5/13/11 on Not Running A Hospital

Here are the latest headlines from an annual salary survey of over 15,000 US physicians representing 22 specialties conducted by Medscape:

The demand for primary care doctors continues to grow, but specialists still earn the most money.

The highest earning medical specialties are orthopedic surgeons and radiologists (median compensation: $350,000), followed by anesthesiologists and cardiologists ($325,000).

If they had to do it all over again, primary care doctors were least likely to choose the same specialty (43%).

More than one fourth of primary care physicians (29%) spend between 13 and 16 minutes with each of their patients.

Women doctors reported a 2010 median income of $160,000 compared with men’s $225,000. Possible reasons set forth by Medscape: (1) Female physicians on average spend fewer hours per week seeing patients than their male counterparts do, the likely result of their efforts to juggle multiple familial and professional commitments. (2) Fewer women than men are represented in some of the higher-earning specialties, such as orthopedic surgery, cardiology, and gastroenterology.

When it comes to where doctors earn more, the North Central US is the nation’s Gold Coast.

Internists and family physicians in small towns and rural areas with populations under 25,000 actually earned more in 2010 than their big city colleagues did: With fewer specialists to refer to, small town and rural physicians simply refer less and do more, from minor excisions to more complicated procedures.

Would you do it again?

Given a mulligan . . . most physicians, specialists as well as primary care doctors, would chose the career of medicine again.

Among the 22 groups of specialists surveyed, 69% said they would take the same career path, 61% said they would choose the same specialty, and 50% said they would choose the same practice setting. Primary care doctors were just as certain as the specialists about their choice of career and practice setting, but they were less certain than their specialist colleagues about choosing the same specialty again. Indeed, 43% of PCPs said they would, while a significant 58% either said No or they weren’t sure.

Of those in either the specialties or primary care who said theywould not choose a career in medicine again, business, law, teaching, and finance, in that order, are the most popular alternative careers. Other choices included chef, computer sciences, musician, pilot, and journalist. One respondent said he’d like to be “An assassin — of insurance company executives.”

Paul Levy is the former CEO of a large Boston hospital. He writes at Not Running a Hospital.

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