Primary Care Gaining in Physician Compensation

Chelsea Rice, for HealthLeaders Media , November 26, 2012

Even in placements for experienced physicians in their first year at a new practice, median first-year compensation showed a substantial difference between primary care and specialty care. Established primary care physicians in their first year at a new practice earned 2.9% more than first-year primary care physicians placed directly out of residency or fellowship—a notable difference when compared to the 14% increase in compensation between first-year and established specialty care physicians.

"There's a lot of things that are in play in terms of how we as a nation should look towards primary care, and offer up solutions to make that a more attractive specialty to providers that are considering entering into that space as they graduate medical school," says Evenson.

The survey data also noted trend shifts based on practice ownership. Median first-year compensation for hospital or integrated delivery system–employed primary care physicians grew by 9.1% in 2011 and was higher than at independent practices, a trend that has been consistent since 2007. In a shift from the trend of the previous two years, specialty care physicians reported comparable median first-year compensation from hospital or IDS-owned versus independent practices. In the 2012 report, 51.5% of the practices surveyed were hospital/IDS-owned.

When compared across geographic regions, first-year specialty care physicians' median salaries varied more than those in primary care. The Eastern region of the United States reported the most significant growth (20%) in specialty care and primary care (13.1%) first-year compensation since 2009. The Southern region reported the smallest amount of growth for first-year primary care compensation (5.9%) since 2009, while the Western region reported the smallest change in specialty care compensation (2%).

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