Blog | Thursday, June 9, 2016

The delusion continues (part 2)

A few hours after I posted on the survey of Internal Medicine residents on why they won't pursue training in Infectious Diseases, a reader alerted me to another new paper on ID physician salaries in Open Forum Infectious Diseases (free full text here with additional data available on the IDSA website requiring a membership password). This study was also sponsored by IDSA. The title of the paper is ”ID Physician Compensation–An Improved Perspective.”

From this survey of nearly 1,900 ID physicians, we learn that the median salary of a full-time physician that is focused on patient care is $210,000. The data are sliced and diced in many ways, and are interesting to review.

The spin in the discussion (alluded to in the title of the paper) is that things are really not as bad as we thought. The authors point out that the often quoted Medscape survey has a small sample size and underestimates the true salary of ID docs. And while that is true, we still need to maintain perspective.

We know that our biggest competitor is hospital medicine. So let's take a look at hospitalist salaries. In 2013 (2 years before the IDSA survey), the overall median compensation for hospitalists was $254,000. So for an additional 2 years of training, the Infectious Diseases doctor will earn $44,000 less than his/her hospitalist colleague. And don't forget, full time for a hospitalist is, on average, 40 hours per week. How many ID doctors work 40 hours weekly?

Unfortunately, for most internal medicine residents, this decision is a no-brainer and I doubt this new survey will have much impact. Spin on, IDSA, spin on.

Michael B. Edmond, MD, FACP, is a hospital epidemiologist in Iowa City, IA, with a focus on improving the quality and safety of health care, and sees patients in the inpatient and outpatient settings. This post originally appeared at the blog Controversies in Hospital Infection Prevention.