COVID-19 impacting doctors’ salaries, though salaries remain high

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The COVID-19 pandemic has had a deleterious effect on physician income, with primary care physicians recording a 55% drop in income and a 20-30% decrease in patient volume, according to the latest report on the Physician Debt and Net Worth published by Medscape.

Specialists face even more difficulties as they rely heavily on elective cases, which cannot be directly addressed by emerging technologies such as telehealth, according to the report.

Despite this, physician incomes are on the rise, and while the pandemic may have had a moderating effect on this trend, the trend itself is still there: PCPs made $ 243,000 this year, an increase of 2 , 5% over last year, while specialists earned $ 346,000 this year, an increase of 1.5%.

Overall, the trend suggests that while salaries are increasing, they are doing so at slower-than-normal rates – and firm revenues are falling.

WHAT IS THE IMPACT

Half of physicians have a net worth of less than $ 1 million and only a small percentage have more than $ 5 million, although that proportion may change due to the ongoing public health emergency. Forty-two percent of physicians earned between $ 1 million and $ 5 million this year.

Many of the specialties with the highest average income are the most affected because a large part of their income comes from elective procedures. A small orthopedic group, for example, predicts that revenues will be down 90% for the year if current conditions persist. Nineteen percent of orthopedic surgeons earned more than $ 5 million this year.

PCPs are among those with lower net worth, and many are now seeing fewer patients, limiting practice hours or even closing their practices. On the other hand, PCPs have a small advantage over specialists in that they can more easily use telehealth, especially now that video and telephone visits are generally reimbursed at a rate equal to that of a visit in. person, at least for the duration of the pandemic.

Unsurprisingly, male doctors had higher net worth than their female counterparts. Ten percent of men earn more than $ 5 million per year, and that number drops to around 5% for women. Forty-six percent of men earn between $ 1 million and $ 5 million, while only 34% of women earn the same amount.

While nearly three-quarters of physicians have not suffered any significant financial loss in the past year, the rest have, for various reasons such as bad investments (9%), practice issues such as reimbursement changes (8%), real estate losses (5%) or legal costs (4%).

Doctors cited a number of effective cost-cutting tactics, such as placing up to half of their premiums in investment accounts or adding additional amounts to the principal of their monthly mortgage payments.

THE BIGGEST TREND

The pandemic has dramatically altered the physician labor market, resulting in a temporary reduction in starting salaries and practice options for physicians, according to a 2020 report by Merritt Hawkins on physician recruitment trends.

Although there has been an increase in physician research engagements during the 12-month period from March 2019 to March 2020, the demand for physicians since then, as measured by the number of new research engagements, has decreased by more than 30%. At the same time, the number of physicians seeking employment opportunities has increased, which has created an opportune market for healthcare institutions seeking physicians.

Meanwhile, a new report from the Medical Group Management Association shows that physician compensation has remained largely the same, despite the pandemic’s impact on patient volumes, caps on elective procedures, and closures. cabinets.

In 2020, primary care physician compensation experienced modest growth. Many physicians have seen their compensation increase slightly or have reached the compensation of the previous year. Between 2019 and 2020, total primary care physician compensation increased 2.6% compared to three- and five-year cumulative increases of 5.27% and 10.15%, respectively.

Contrary to expectations, most specialties have had minimal changes in compensation. Despite limited patient volumes due to regional blockages and overwhelmed hospitals, surgical physicians saw their compensation drop 0.89% in 2020. Non-surgical specialists reported a drop of 1.29%.

Twitter: @JELagasse
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