Group and private practices, as well as specialties reliant on elective procedures, are most at risk during the pandemic.
Physician salaries rose from the end of 2019 to the start of 2020 but remain vulnerable to the impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak, which could ‘dramatically alter’ the landscape, according to the 2020 Medscape Physician Compensation Report released Thursday morning.
Between October 2019 and February 2020, the average annual salary for primary care physicians rose 2.5% to $243,000. Similarly, the average annual salary for specialists rose 1.5% to $346,000.
Orthopedists and plastic surgeons continue to be the highest paid physicians, both earning north of $475,000 per year, while public health and preventive medicine specialists made just over $230,000 per year.
The highest paid physicians are primarily located in the South, with Kentucky leading the way at an annual salary of $346,000, followed by Tennessee, Florida, and Alabama.
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Despite the clear salary gains, group and private practices, as well as specialties reliant on elective procedures, are most at risk during the pandemic.
Given the widespread cancellation of elective surgeries at hospitals across the country in order to handle the influx of patients infected with COVID-19, the report stated that patient volumes have declined by 60% since early March.
Physicians, which earned an average of 13% in incentive bonuses based off “patient volume and productivity,” face continued challenges related to the outbreak. Additionally, Medscape found that one-in-10 physician practices have closed because of the pandemic.
“While the Medscape report shows only modest changes in physician salaries through early 2020, we anticipate that this year will be one of enormous challenge for physician practices across the country, regardless of type and specialty,” Leslie Kane, MA, senior director of Medscape Business of Medicine, said in a statement. “Physicians are being resourceful and trying new tactics to keep their practices going and treating patients. Many are already thinking about how to safely get their offices opened again. Some specialties will have a backlog of patients, although others will have more of a challenge to make their practices viable again.”
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There is still a gender gap between physicians as women, who account for more than 40% of the primary care workforce, earned $52,000 less per year than their male counterparts. The divide was even more stark for female specialists, who make nearly $90,000 less than male specialists per year.
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For the surveyed period, public health and preventive medicine specialists saw the largest increase in salary by percentage, 11%, while otolaryngologists and dermatologists experienced salary declines of 1% and 2%, respectively.
Related: Physician Compensation Rises Across Most Specialties
Jack O’Brien is the finance editor at HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.
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