Physician Compensation Remains Stable as Uncompensated Tasks Chip Away at Productivity


Responses from 1300 physicians suggest that increasing patient load and adding ancillary services may be the key to increasing annual income.

Physician compensation has remained relatively stable over the last year for most practitioners, according to survey results from Medical Economics’ 90th Annual Physician Report. The survey, which includes responses from 1300 physicians from across the United States, covers topics related to compensation, productivity, work-life balance, and malpractice.

The results represent physicians who work in private practice, hospitals, nonprofits, and government agencies across various specialties, including primary care, internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics/gynecology, cardiology, and others.

Notably, over 70% of respondents indicated that uncompensated tasks, including prior authorizations, as well as higher overhead costs, lower reimbursement, higher technology costs, government regulations, difficulties collecting from patients, and penalties associated with quality metrics have a negative impact on productivity and revenue.

Overall, 35% of physicians reported that their financial state of progress is worse now than it was 5 years ago.

Among the 22% of physicians who reported an increase in compensation, many reported that seeing more patients, changing their practice model, receiving pay-for-performance benefits, renegotiating payer contracts, and adding ancillary services to their practice helped improve their finances.

On average, physicians in family and internal medicine saw an average of 85 patients per week in 2018, an increase from the previous year, with those affiliated with private practice or hospital-owned practice seeing the highest number of patients per week.

As for income, male physicians earned an average income just above $300,000 per year in 2018 compared with $225,000 among women, both of which were an increase from previous years. Notably, physicians who practice in suburban, urban, and rural areas take home a higher average income than those who work in inner city practice communities, with approximately a $25,000 pay gap. When comparing regions, average income was relatively the same among physicians located in the South, Northeast, Midwest, and Western regions of the US. Finally, those who owned their own practice earned a higher income, on average, than those who did not, with average owner compensation in 2018 at $315,000 compared with 248,000 for non-owners. Notably, owners saw a significant increase in income from 2017 to 2018, with an average increase of $63,000. Overall, those operating in private practice or hospital-owned practice earned a higher average income than those working at an in-patient hospital, nonprofit, or government agency.

Malpractice insurance remains a significant cost for physicians, with 23% of respondents reporting an increase in premiums over the last 5 years, and another 12% reporting an increase between 2017 and 2018. Practices with 11 to 25 staff physicians reported the steepest increase from 2017 to 2018, as well as the higher median annual premium rate at just under $20,000. Physicians practicing in the Northeast region reported a higher median annual premium than those practicing in the West, Midwest, and Southern US.


90TH Annual Physician Report. Medical Economics. Published April 19, 2019. Accessed April 19, 2019.

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