For the first time in several years, physician income is up in most specialties, but doctors' attitudes about practicing medicine aren't necessarily on the upswing, according to a new physician compensation report from Medscape Today.
In particular, the survey of almost 22,000 US physicians representing 25 specialties revealed the following trends for 2013:
- For the third year, orthopedic surgeons earned the most, with a mean income of $405,000. They credit a turnaround in the economy triggering more elective surgeries with their 27 percent pay increase over last year. But despite their booming businesses, these specialists were tied with dermatologists as the least likely to say they'd choose medicine as a career again, at 37 percent.
- While internists and family physicians saw a respective 9 percent and 5 percent increase in pay, they remained among the lowest earners, making $175,000–$185,000.
- The only specialties to post declines in compensation, diabetes physician/endocrinologists ($178,000) suffered a 3 drop in pay, while oncologists ($278,000) had a decline of 4 percent, partially due to cuts in reimbursement for chemotherapy.
- The number of physicians who are in an accountable care organization (ACO) or planned to join one jumped to 24 percent from just 8 percent last year, when the implementation of the Affordable Care Act was less certain.
- Overall, 19 percent of physicians have added ancillary services to boost their practice revenue streams, but to varying degrees among specialties. According to the survey, 30 percent of anesthesiologists are adding ancillary services, compared with 19 percent of endocrinologists and 20 percent of internists.
"Physicians often tend to be 'income targeters,'" Judy Aburmishan, CPA, a partner in FGMK, LLC in Chicago, Illinois, told Medscape. "That means that they expect to make a certain amount of money. If reimbursements are going down, they'll work harder, seeing more patients and putting in more hours, to increase volume."