Dermatologists saw small income drop 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 dermatology looked like just before the coronavirus arrived.

Back then, it turns out, earnings were down. Average compensation reported by dermatologists dropped from $419,000 in 2019 to $411,000 this year, a 1.9% decrease. 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 this year of the pandemic are not better. “Specialists are currently having more troubles than [primary care physicians] because they’re dependent on elective cases, which can’t be directly addressed by telemedicine,” Joel Greenwald, MD, the CEO of Greenwald Wealth Management in St. Louis Park, Minn., told Medscape.

Despite the drop in earnings, 65% of dermatologists said that they were fairly compensated, which is more than the 61% who expressed that opinion in 2015 and more than 22 of the 29 specialties included in this year’s survey, Medscape noted.

Dermatologists (76%) were just below the average for all physicians (77%) when asked if they would choose medicine again, but they were near the top when asked if they would choose the same specialty (95%). Only orthopedics (97%) and oncology (96%) were higher, the survey data show.

The biggest problem area for dermatologists, by a small margin, is difficult patients. The most challenging part of their job, according to 24% of those responding, is “dealing with difficult patients,” with 23% choosing “having so many rules and regulations.” Among all physicians, rules/regulations was the leading choice with 27% of the vote, Medscape said.

The survey 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%.

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