May 27, 2020

The 5 highest-paid physician specialties, according to MGMA

Daily Briefing

    Most physician specialties saw compensation increases between 2018 and 2019, according to a recent report from the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA).

    Report details

    For the report, MGMA analyzed comparative data from more than 168,000 physicians and nonphysician providers at more than 6,300 organizations. The data was based on voluntary responses to questionnaires from both MGMA member and nonmember practices.

    The 5 highest-paid physician specialties—and other findings

    The report found that, in 2019, the five physician specialties with the highest total compensation were:

    1. Surgery: Neurological ($875,626);
    2. Orthopedic Surgery: Spine ($835,573);
    3. Pediatrics: Neurosurgery ($818,325);
    4. Surgery: Cardiovascular ($795,000); and
    5. Orthopedic Surgery: Hip and Joint ($756,911).

    The report also found that physicians in the Southern and Western regions of the United States tended to have the highest compensation in 2019, while those in the Eastern region had the lowest. 

    According to the report, median total compensation for primary care physicians increased by 2.6% from 2018 to 2019, while specialty providers saw a 1% increase in compensation, and nonphysician providers saw a 2.1% increase.

    Among all specialties, urgent care saw the largest increase in compensation between 2018 and 2019, with a 6.8% increase.

    The report also found that newly hired providers saw an increase in median guaranteed compensation between 2018 and 2019. For example, median guaranteed compensation for:

    • Newly hired noninvasive cardiology physicians increased by 15.4%;
    • Newly hired gastroenterology physicians increased by 14.3%; and
    • Newly hired OB/GYN physicians increased by 4.7%.

    How Covid-19 could impact physician compensation

    Despite the compensation growth, MGMA in a separate report noted that the uncertainty surrounding the new coronavirus creates uncertainty around compensation trends. For instance, MGMA found that practices, on average, saw a 55% decrease in revenue and 60% decrease in patient volume since the start of the Covid-19 epidemic. According to MGMA, these decreases are likely to lead to significant impacts to all medical practices as many will lay off and/or furlough their staff. 

    "With 1.4 million health care workers furloughed in the last month alone, this 2019 compensation data will serve as a baseline for benchmarking 2020 operations in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic," Halee Fischer-Wright, president and CEO of MGMA, said. "Covid-19 has had a dramatic impact on the health care industry with productivity halting for many medical practices. Compensation models will look different in the near future based on shifting productivity and demands on physicians and the health care industry overall" (MGMA Provider Compensation and Production Report, 5/21; O'Brien, HealthLeaders Media, 5/22).

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