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Income News Is Good, Bad For Radiologists

April 27, 2012
Written by: , Filed in: Practice Management
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The good news: Medscape’s annual Physician Compensation Report finds radiologists tying with orthopedic surgeons for highest mean income among all medical specialists in 2011. The bad news: That annual income was $315,000, down from $350,000 in 2010.

And the disclaimer: Because the data were collected via a “third-party online survey collection site,” they would not exactly stand up to rigorous peer review. The numbers probably ought to be considered, at best, rough approximations.

Still, numbers are fun. So, rounding out the top five: cardiologists ($314,000), anesthesiologists ($309,000), and urologists ($303,000). The bottom five: psychiatrists ($170,000), diabetes specialists/endocrinologists ($168,000), internal medicine specialists ($165,000), family practitioners ($158,000), and pediatricians ($156,000).

The survey suggests that if doctors want to make the most money, they should live in the North Central region: Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, and the Dakotas. There, income averaged $234,000, compared with $204,000 in the lowest-compensated region, the Northeast. The survey quoted Tommy Bohannon, a vice president for the physician-recruiting company Merritt Hawkins & Associates, as explaining:

There’s less competition among physicians in smaller communities and rural areas. There isn’t that same downward pressure on reimbursement that you have in metropolitan areas. Generally, smaller communities have to pay more to attract physicians.

For radiologists, the highest-income region was the Great Lakes (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio): $345,000. Others, in order: Southeast ($340,000), South Central ($337,000), Southwest ($329,000), West ($328,000), Mid-Atlantic ($319,000), North Central ($316,000), Northeast ($284,000), and Northwest ($275,000).

Some other nuggets:

  • Partners in private practice earned the most ($308,000), followed by owners of solo practices ($222,000), employed physicians ($194,000), and independent contractors ($175,000).
  • Physicians who were board-certified averaged $236,000; those who weren’t averaged $125,000.
  • Among all physicians, 51 percent felt fairly compensated. Among radiologists, the figure was 62 percent.
  • Overall, 11 percent of physicians considered themselves rich. Among radiologists, 14 percent said they felt rich, and 51 percent said they might feel rich if not for their debts and expenses.
  • Among all physicians, 54 percent would choose medicine again as a career, down from 69 percent in 2010. Only 43 percent of radiologists said they would choose medicine again, though 50 percent said they’d choose the same specialty.
  • Among all physicians, 43 percent said they wouldn’t reduce tests, procedures and treatments—despite guidelines recommending otherwise—because the guidelines were not in the patients’ best interest; 24 percent said they would make no reductions because they practiced defensive medicine. The corresponding numbers among radiologists were 47 percent and 26 percent.

The data were collected February 1–17, 2012, from 24,216 U.S. physicians across 25 specialty areas.

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Can radiology avoid becoming a commodity—and the accompanying downward pressure on income? See our Facebook page for one expert’s take.

Related seminar: The Business of Radiology

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