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Physician pay is on the rise, but for which specialties?

John Murphy, MDLinx | September 05, 2019

Physician compensation increased, but improvement in productivity remained low in 2018, according to data from the American Medical Group Association’s (AMGA) new 2019 Medical Group Compensation and Productivity Survey. Among specialties, primary care physicians and psychiatrists earned significantly more, while other specialists—notably pediatricians, radiologists, ophthalmologists, and OB/GYNs—had a loss in compensation.

Income on the rebound

Overall, compensation among all physicians rose by a med­ian of 2.92% in 2018, compared with a 0.89% increase the previous year. Meanwhile, productivity (as measured by work relative value unit, or wRVU) increased by only 0.29%, but that’s in comparison with a 1.63% decline in 2017.

“The 2019 survey shows that physician compensation in 2018 rebounded from a stagnant 2017,” said Fred Horton, MHA, president, AMGA Consulting, Alexandria, VA. “While productivity also increased, it did not increase enough to surpass the decline we saw in last year’s survey, meaning productivity still has not risen since 2016.”

AMGA Consulting (an AMGA subsidiary) conducted the survey by compiling data submitted by 272 medical groups, representing 117,030 providers from across the country.

In 2018, compensation-per-wRVU ratio increased 3.64%, compared with a 3.09% increase the previous year. Hospital administrators and employers use this ratio as a guide to align productivity relative to compensation.

Primary care compensation

For all primary care specialties, median compensation increased by 4.91% in 2018—a significant gain from the 0.76% increase in 2017. Meanwhile, productivity was flat, with wRVUs increasing only 0.21% in 2018. As a result, the median compensation-per-wRVU ratio increased 3.57%—the largest increase for primary care specialties in 4 years. 

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