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Compensation Trend Data Sources

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By Dr. David Edward Marcinko MBA

[Editor-in-Chief] www.BusinessofMedicalPractice.com

Related chapters: Chapter 27: Salary Compensation and Chapter 29: Concierge Medicine and Chapter 30: Practice Value-Worth

 

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PERSONAL PREAMBLE

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Physician compensation is a contentious issue and often much fodder for public scrutiny. Throw modern pay for performance [P4P], and related metrics, into the mix and few situations produce the same level of emotion as doctors fighting over wages, salary and other forms of reimbursement.

This situation often springs from a failure of both sides to understand mutual compensation terms-of-art when the remuneration deal was first negotiated. This physician salary and compensation information is thus offered as a reference point for further investigations.

Introduction 

More than a decade ago, Fortune magazine carried the headline “When Six Figured Incomes Aren’t Enough. Now Doctors Want a Union.” To the man in the street, it was just a matter of the rich getting richer. The sentiment was quantified in the March 31, 2005 issue of Physician’s Money Digest when Greg Kelly and I reported that a 47-y.o. doctor with 184,000 dollars in annual income would need about 5.5 million dollars for retirement at age.

Of course, physicians were not complaining back then under the traditional fee-for-service system; the imbroglio only began when managed care adversely impacted income and the stock market crashed in 2008.

Today, the situation is vastly different as medical professionals struggle to maintain adequate income levels. Rightly or wrongly, the public has little sympathy for affluent doctors following healthcare reform. While a few specialties flourish, others, such as primary care, barely move.

In the words of colleague Atul Gawande, MD, a surgeon and author from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, “Doctors quickly learn that how much they make has little to do with how good they are. It largely depends on how they handle the business side of practice.”  And so, it is critical to understand contemporary thoughts on physician compensation and related trends.

Compensation Trend Data Sources

A growing number of surveys measure physician compensation, encompassing a varying depth of analysis. Physician compensation data, divided by specialty and subspecialty, is central to a range of consulting activities including practice assessments and valuations of medical entities. It may be used as a benchmarking tool, allowing the physician executive or consultant to compare a practitioner’s earnings with national and local averages.

The Medical Group Management Association’s (MGMA’s) annual Physician Compensation and Production Correlations Survey is a particularly well-known source of this data in the valuation community. Other information sources include Merritt Hawkins and Associates; and the annual the Health Care Group’s, [www.theHealthCareGroup.com] Goodwill Registry.

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Assessment

However, all sources are fluid and should be taken with a grain of statistical skepticism, and users are urged to seek out as much data as possible and assess all available information in order to determine a compensation amount that may be reasonably expected for a comparable specialty situation. And, realize that net income is defined as salary after practice expenses but before payment of personal income taxes.

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