There were 953,695 actively licensed physicians at the end of 2016, which is a 12% increase since 2010, according to a new biennial census from the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB).
The actively licensed U.S. physician-to-population ratio increased in that time from 277 physicians per 100,000 people to 295 per 100,000. Even with that improvement, the report still warned about a potential physician shortage as the country grows and ages.
- In other physician-related news, AMGA released its 2017 Medical Group Compensation and Productivity Survey, which found that 77% of all specialties increased their compensation over the past year with a 2.9% increase overall. Ophthalmology (7.7% increase), cardiac/thoracic surgery (7%) and hematology and medical oncology (6.7%) saw the largest median compensation increases.
FSMB found the fastest growing segments among actively licensed physicians are females, doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs) and Caribbean medical school graduates. Women now make up 34% of actively licensed physicians, compared to 30% in 2010. Other reports continue to show a gender pay gap, however. Female physicians on average earn about 26% less than their male counterparts.
Physicians who are DOs grew by 39% since 2010, compared to a 10% increase for MDs. FSMB said osteopathic medicine is “one of the fastest growing healthcare professions in the United States” and has increased by 65% since 2006 and 276% since 1986.
DOs, females and Caribbean medical graduates are also younger than the average licensed physician. While the overall average is 51 for physicians, DOs, females and Caribbean medical graduates average between 45 and 46 years old. This could “affect the composition of the overall licensed physician population in the years to come,” said FSMB.
Though there are more medical school students in the U.S. and there are more licensed physicians, FSMB still warned about an impending physician shortage as the population grows and ages. Hospitals are also dealing with high turnover rates and a large number of retirements.
Meanwhile, the AMGA report showed that the overall weighted average increase in 2016 physician compensation was 2.9%, which was close to the 3.1% increase in 2015. Primary care specialists saw a median increase of 3.2% compared to 3.5% in 2015, while other medical specialties saw an increase of 2.8%, compared to 3% in 2015 and surgical specialties increased 2%, compared to 3.6% in 2015.
The AMGA survey found that physicians’ median work relative value units was +1.54%. Tom Dobosenski, president of AMGA Consulting, said there are “signs of a perfect storm gathering as costs continue to rise, productivity is flat and collections are flat, with 51% of specialties this year reporting a decrease in median net collections.”
Dobosenski also said 61% of groups surveyed reported some of their physicians’ compensation is based on value-based measures. Value-based payment models have become more popular as the CMS and private payers look for ways to reduce cost and improve quality, care and patient outcomes. The CMS is expected to announce a new Bundled Payment for Care Improvement this summer.