Group Practice Docs Earned Slightly more in 2003

Edition: October 2004 - Vol 12 Number 10
Article#: 1965
Author: Repertoire

Physicians experienced only minor increases overall in compensation during 2003, according to the Medical Group Management Associa-tion (MGMA) Physician Compensation and Production Survey: 2004 Report Based on 2003 Data. For primary care practices, figures suggest that compensation is not keeping up with physicians’ workloads, and their cost of doing business may be increasing at a faster rate than that of specialists. Among specialists, the MGMA report found that cardiologists’ compensation levels have increased over the past year, as recruiting has become more competitive.

The MGMA report outlines compensation and production indicators for more than 40,000 providers in 105 physician specialties and 30 non-physician specialties in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Based in Englewood, Colo., MGMA has 19,000 members, who manage and lead more than 11,500 organizations, in which more than 237,000 physicians practice.

Challenges for Primary Care

Responding primary care practices reported a slight increase in physician compensation 2.4 percent and a 6.1 percent increase in charges. This may indicate primary care physicians are still attempting to maintain their compensation by increasing their productivity. This is the third straight year MGMA has observed the increases in primary care productivity outpacing increases in compensation.

“Growth in primary care has been so limited that we fear this field could become unattractive to young physicians,” says MGMA President and CEO William F. Jessee, M.D. “Primary care practices will continue to struggle to survive unless their financial viability improves. If it does not, we are likely to see more specialists in multi-specialty groups refuse to subsidize the unprofitable primary care segment of their groups.”

Specialists Report Increases

Overall, specialists reported a 7.95 percent increase in compensation in 2003. Noninvasive cardiologists reported a 13.59 percent increase in compensation, due in part to the competitive recruitment environment.

“While cardiology groups struggle to recruit for their specialty, they also may experience increasing compensation, because more patient testing is being performed in the physician office setting,” says Frederic R. Simmons Jr., CEO of Clearwater, Fla.-based Cardiovascular & Intervention Consultants, and chair of the MGMA Survey Advisory Committee. “Physician practices are performing clinical modalities such as echocardiography and nuclear medicine that were once delivered in an institutional setting. Generally, noninvasive cardiologists are supervising, reading and interpreting these tests, creating a larger, global revenue stream for these practices and a greater convenience for patients.”

Other specialties that reported gains in compensation included gastroenterology, ophthalmology and urology.

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) reported an 11 percent increase in compensation in 2003, possibly because practices are growing to rely on these professionals to perform procedures as a way to cope with anesthesiologist shortages. For the first time, the MGMA report also features collections and relative value units (RVUs) for non-physician providers.

Medical Practice Management Compensation

MGMA also released the MGMA Management Compensation Survey: 2004 Report Based on 2003 Data, which indicates that practice administrators in practices with six or fewer physicians exhibited a 6.88 percent decline in median compensation, while practice administrators in mid-sized and large groups seven to 25 full-time equivalent (FTE) physicians and greater than 25 FTE physicians – reported only 3.28 percent and 5.53 percent increases, respectively. The MGMA report also indicated that compensation still shows upward trends for most senior level positions, with laboratory directors reporting the biggest gain, at 9.76 percent.