Physician pay up 20% since 2015 but gender gap widens
- Physician wages have increased 20% since 2015 and 4% in the past year, according to a new report from Medscape. In 2019, the average physician salary was $313,000, with primary care doctors earning about $104,000 less than specialists.
- The survey of nearly 20,000 doctors across 30 specialties also found that the gender pay gap in medicine is worsening, with male physicians earning 25% more than their female colleagues in 2019, up from 18% the year before. There are also racial disparities. White physicians earned on average $38,000 more a year than black physicians.
- The amount of time doctors spend on paperwork has also increased, with nearly three-quarters reporting more than 10 hours a week spent on administrative tasks and more than a third with 20 hours or more. That’s a stark contrast from 2012, when about half of physicians said they spent one to four hours a week on paperwork.
The findings on the wage difference for male and female doctors contrasts with another recent compensation survey that found the gender pay gap narrowing just slightly. Medscape researchers said that while female physicians do spend less time with patients and tend to choose lower-paying specialties, those factors don't fully explain the pay gap.
The amount of time doctors spend on administrative tasks is concerning, as that burden can lead to burnout and job dissatisfaction. HHS under the Trump administration has taken on the issue through an initiative it calls Patients over Paperwork — attempting to pare back tasks providers face on reporting requirements, for example.
But in line with other research, the Medscape survey shows doctors are mostly happy with their jobs and burnout is on the decline. Half of doctors surveyed said they were "satisfied" with their own job performance and 42% were "very satisfied." The majority of physicians said they would choose medicine as a career again.
"Despite frustration and burnout, physicians work hard to do a good job, and find patient care to be the best reward," Leslie Kane, senior director of the business of medicine for Medscape, said in a statement.
They still report some gripes, however. Doctors said they were worried most about excessive rules and regulations, and 15% said having to work with an EHR was the most challenging part of their job. Other frustrations cited were long hours, difficult patients and lack of fair reimbursement.
Medscape found that most of the top states for physician pay are in the South, a change from previous results that showed Indiana and Connecticut ranking highest. For 2019, the highest-paying states were Oklahoma, Alabama, Nevada, Arkansas and Florida.
The highest paid specialties were orthopaedics and plastic surgery, with pediatrics and public health at the bottom of the list.
When asked about payment models, 28% of doctors said they participated in an accountable care organization and 11% used a direct primary care model. Few physicians reported having a cash-only (6%) or concierge (2%) practice.
More than 70% said they will continue taking new and current Medicare and Medicaid patients. Similar to other years, about one-fifth of doctors said the would drop insurers that paid poorly.
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