Blog | Thursday, April 26, 2012

QD: News Every Day--Internists see 2% more income, still among the lowest paid specialties

26% of physicians earned less this year compared with last year, according to a survey by Medscape.

While physician income declined in general, the top-earning specialties remained the same as last year. In 2012, radiologists and orthopedic surgeons earned $315,000, followed by cardiologists ($314,000), anesthesiologists ($309,000), and urologists ($309,000). This is a change from 2011, when radiologists and orthopedic surgeons earned a mean of $350,000 each and anesthesiologists and cardiologists earned $325,000.

The bottom-earning specialties in 2012's survey were pediatrics ($156,000), family medicine ($158,000), and internal medicine ($165,000).

Despite the ranking, internal medicine saw a 2% increase in income. The biggest income increases were in ophthalmology (+9%), pediatrics (+5%), nephrology (+4%), rheumatology (+4%), and oncology (+4%). The largest declines were in general surgery (-12%), orthopedic surgery (-10%), radiology (-10%), and emergency medicine (-8%).

Male physicians overall earned about 40% more than females. In primary care, men earned 23% more. While the gap is due to female physicians choosing to work fewer hours, that gap is closing as younger male physicians seek more family-friendly lifestyles, the report stated.

Partners in private practice were busier than employed physicians, but they far outearned other types of employment. Overall, partners in private practice earned a mean of $308,000. Solo practitioners earned a mean of $222,000, while employed physicians earned a mean of $194,000.

Physicians who are board certified earned a mean of $236,000, which was 89% more than non-board-certified doctors, who earned a mean of $125,000.

About 31% of physicians overall spend 30-40 hours per week in direct patient care. About one quarter of pediatricians, rheumatologists, and family physicians spend less than 30 hours per week in direct patient care.

As in Medscape's 2011 survey, the 13- to 16-minute patient visit is still the most common, especially for family medicine and internal medicine. This is time spent directly with the doctor, not another practitioner.

More than half of all physicians spend 4 hours or less on paperwork and administration. Another 23% spend from 5 to 14 hours per week on administrative work. Only 10% of family physicians, internists, and pediatricians spend that much time on administrative activity.

Internists and family physicians reported that they were the most frustrated specialties. This year's survey reported far more dissatisfaction among doctors across all specialties than those of previous years. In 2012, just over one half of all physicians (54%) would choose medicine again as a career, far less than last year (69%). Only one quarter of internists and one third of family physicians would choose the same specialty.

The survey was conducted among 24,216 US physicians across 25 specialties in early February via a third-party online survey collection site. Internists were the single largest responding specialty, at 15% of all responses.