The State of Physician Compensation
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Although the Affordable Care Act has increased the demand for physicians, especially internal medicine and primary care doctors, an increase in compensation has lagged. One of the reasons is because there is a shift towards care models based on value results as opposed to pure volume. Facilities are hiring more staff in order to offer more wellness and prevention programs. Because of this, it is estimated that compensation won’t be moving up much any time soon.
Compensation Survey Results
A 2013 survey of physicians by the Medical Group Management Association showed that the income for primary care providers, such as internists, family doctors, and pediatricians only increased around 3 percent from 2011 to 2012. The average pay in 2011 was $212,840, and increased to $220,942 in 2012. A 2014 survey reported that 42 percent of the respondents had not had an increase in payment for services over the previous year, and 32 percent were somewhat disappointed with what they were making.
A Decrease in Work Volume
Considering how much overhead costs and student loans are, the previous data is a bit disturbing. However, a closer look at the information shows that the pay for a unit of work has actually increased 10 percent, but the number of worked units has decreased around 5 percent. This means that doctors are working fewer hours in order to spend more quality time with their patients, which is affecting their pay.
This new care model tends to be welcomed by the newer generation of doctors, as they are becoming more focused on lifestyle than their predecessors. They are more concerned on setting particular schedules in order to have more flexibility and a less demanding workload. If done correctly, they will be able to make the same amount of money while working fewer hours.
Challenge With Value-based Incentives
The industry goal for physicians is to base compensation more on value-based metrics (relative value units, or RVUs) as opposed to the number of patients seen. While volume is still important, there has been a switch to wanting to provide higher quality care. It’s important to realize that RVUs are not a fixed unit. They change quarterly.
The challenge lies in how to measure these results, which often takes patient contribution and participation. Some ways to measure value include low rates of hospital readmission and high satisfaction scores from patients.
Some doctors and facilities are embracing the new compensation model and making great strides in finding ways to increase satisfaction results and care outcomes. As they continue to figure it out, they are noticing higher compensation increases.
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