Pulmonology, critical care earnings on the upswing before pandemic


As the COVID spring progresses, the days before the pandemic may seem like a dream: Practices were open, waiting rooms were full of unmasked people, and PPE was plentiful.

Survey: Physician compensation by specialty

Medscape’s latest physician survey, conducted from Oct. 4, 2019, to Feb. 10, 2020, shows what pulmonology and critical care looked like just before the coronavirus arrived.

Back then, earnings were up. Average compensation reported by pulmonologists was up from $331,000 in 2019 to $342,000 this year, a 3.3% increase. For intensivists, earnings rose from $349,000 to $355,000, or 1.7%. Average income for all specialists was $346,000 in this year’s survey – 1.5% higher than the $341,000 earned in 2019, Medscape reported.

Prospects for the next year, however, are grim. “We found out that we have a 10% salary decrease effective May 2 to Dec. 25. Our bonus will be based on clinical productivity, and since our numbers are down, that is likely to go away,” a pediatric emergency physician told Medscape.

One problem area for intensivists, even before the pandemic, was paperwork and administration. Of the 26 specialties for which data are available, critical care was highest for amount of time spent on paperwork, at 19.1 hours per week. Those in pulmonary medicine spent 15.6 hours per week, which also happened to be the average for all specialists, the survey data show.

Both specialties also ranked high in denied/resubmitted claims: Intensivists were fourth among the 27 types of specialists with reliable data, with 20% of claims denied, and pulmonologists were tied for eighth at 18%, Medscape said.

Only 50% of pulmonologists surveyed said that they were being fairly compensated, putting them 26th among the 29 specialties on that list. Those in critical care medicine were 13th, with a 59% positive response, Medscape reported.

In the end, though, it looks like you can’t keep a good pulmonologist or intensivist down. When asked if they would choose medicine again, 83% of pulmonologists said yes, just one percentage point behind a three-way tie for first. Intensivists were just a little further down the list at 81%, according to the survey.

The respondents were Medscape members who had been invited to participate. The sample size was 17,461 physicians, and compensation was modeled and estimated based on a range of variables across 6 years of survey data. The sampling error was ±0.74%.

Next Article: