Study: Specialists’ Pay Doubles Income for Primary Care Physicians
Primary care physiciansâ wages are less than half that of some of the highest-paid specialists, a disparity that could be fueling a PCP shortage in the U.S, according to a study by theÂ UC-Davis School of Medicine published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, Reuters reports.
The team of researchers -- led by Paul Leigh of the UC-Davis School of Medicine -- collected data from more than 6,000 practicing doctors in 2004 and 2005.
The study found that physicians' average annual income was $187,857, and that physicians on average worked about 53 hours weekly and 47 weeks annually.
The study also broke down physicians' hourly incomes based on specialty. Previous studies of physicians' incomes looked only at annual wages and did not account for hours worked.
The study found average hourly incomes of:
- $132 for neurologic surgeons;
- $126 for radiation oncologists;
- $114 for medical oncologists and plastic surgeons;
- More than $100 for immunologists, orthopedic surgeons and dermatologists;
- $85 for internal medicine and pediatric doctors;
- $67 for child psychiatrists and infectious disease specialists; and
- $60.48 for PCPs.
The study found that the disparities in hourly wages remained the same regardless of race, age, sex and region of the U.S. While researchers did not identify any disparities by race, they did find that female physicians had average hourly incomes that were $9 less than their male counterparts.
Leigh suggested that although the health reform law likely will increase wages for PCPs, specialists' wages also should be reduced. He said, "In other countries, there are typically more primary care than specialty doctors. But here it is the opposite. That can be changed if we could just change the salaries, and let medical students know about it so they don't pursue these specialties so aggressively."
The reform law is expected to result in 15 million people gaining access to the health system, and those patients' first contact should be a PCP, according to Leigh. However, a shortage of PCPs will make that difficult (Peeples, Reuters, 10/25).