Compensation: Comparing the Top Reports of 2020

Compensation
As we approach the end of the year, millions of healthcare professionals are reflecting on their financial year. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted virtually every aspect of social and economic life in the United States, so it is an especially important time to think about how best to preserve your financial health moving forward. There are dozens of databases and websites that provide quality information about the kinds of compensation that physicians receive and about the relative benefits as they are distributed across specialties, demographics, and geographic regions. But not all databases are created equal. Many provide incomplete information, or information that may be useful in some contexts and unhelpful in others. This article will evaluate some of these databases as you consider your role in healthcare and assess your financial health. We know that millions of healthcare professionals across the country are busy working longer hours, extra shifts, and giving up sleep in favor of a continued commitment to providing quality care in these uncertain and dangerous times. To that end, we have done some of the legwork for you in an effort to save you time, money, and stress.

Doximity

With a strong focus on geographic strengths and weaknesses for various specialties in the medical field, Doximity’s annual compensation report provides a valuable snapshot of median salaries across regions and careers. One important metric that the folks at Doximity consider every year in their report is how average salaries have changed over time. For example, while at first glance Ann Arbor, Michigan may have lower average salaries than many cities, it is of note that their average compensation growth rate is 8% year over year. In other words, if you’re looking to relocate to a place that has increasing salaries, places like Ann Arbor may be a safer bet than say, San Antonio, Texas, where the average compensation has decreased 10% year over year.  The Doximity report can provide you with valuable information about whether the region of the country you work in is on par with other regions of the country in terms of compensation. It also has a strong focus on gender pay gaps, as well as trends in these pay gaps year over year. Their analysis extends this line of inquiry beyond geographic variation in gender pay gaps and into pay gaps among a variety of specialties. For emerging healthcare professionals, or for those who are just considering their specialties, this information could be an important consideration in why one might choose one specialty over another.  Overall, the Doximity report provides an important snapshot of the national landscape of physician compensation, and further compares compensation along geographic and gender lines. However, be aware that the information is certainly limited to this snapshot impression of compensation. If you are looking for more detailed information about the kinds of compensation and changes among the types, or about signing bonuses and other recruitment incentives, this is not the source for you. Was last published October, 2020 Sample size/type: 44,000 physicians  Methodology: Self-reported compensation surveys from physicians who practiced at least 40 hours per week

Merritt Hawkins

The Merritt Hawkins report is perhaps the most detailed and comprehensive analysis you can find about physician compensation schemes and their various dimensions. While they also provide a broad overview of trends around the country, they also do deep dives into the particulars of each. Compiling data from recruitment processes around the country, this well-respected firm is one of the best sources to follow if you’re looking to enter the field or make a change based on salary and incentives. Be careful about reading too much into the data, though. Merritt Hawkins uses data from only those who utilize their recruitment services, and thus the data is limited in scope. Embedded within their fifty-page analysis is all sorts of information related to signing bonuses, the kinds of bonuses that are used to calculate pay in various specialties, and the national and regional trends within these. For example, Merritt Hawkins notes that quality-based compensation schemes and quality-based production bonuses are on the rise throughout the country, from 42% in 2018 to 56% in 2019. This is of note for physicians looking to enter different kinds of employment settings, and it’s something you’ll want to pay attention to more as you review potential contracts. Merritt Hawkins also provides the most detailed data on national trends in signing bonuses, writing that they have decreased from about 75% of contracts offering them to 70%. The report goes on to write a whole host of other bonus incentives that are on the rise, providing more beneficial options to consider for any physician looking to make a change. While Merritt Hawkins provides exceptional-quality reviews of the trends in compensation of recruits across the country and in a whole host of specialties, there is a lot of data to wade through in order to make good calculations for your future. You’ll want to find a good chunk of time to spend reading this review if you use it in your decision-making processes. Was last published July 14, 2020 Sample size/type: 3,251 physicians  Methodology: Surveys conducted by Merritt Hawkins/AMN Healthcare’s physician staffing companies

Medscape

The Medscape physician compensation and satisfaction report is similar to Doximity’s publication in scope. Medscape provides a broad overview of the current trends in compensation across a more diverse array of specialties than many sources. Their 2019 overview offers readers a look into gender pay gaps in specialties and in regions of the country, as well as trends in these pay gaps. Their report is a great entry point into salary averages among various medical specialties. Medscape’s strength is in its reporting on physician work quality, satisfaction, and recent effects of COVID-19 on the entire field of medicine. Few reports cover anything but monetary metrics of satisfaction, so Medscape is definitely a site you’ll want to take a look at. With high-quality polling of physicians across the country, Medscape’s analysis provides readers with an insight into how many hours physicians are working on billing, how this is changing, and their overall perceptions of the job. Overall, the report is a great resource for learning about how different specialties and different regions compare in quality of life metrics.  Was last published May 14, 2020 Sample size/type: 17,461 physicians  Methodology: Online survey set to Medscape members

Salary.com and the US Department of Labor and Statistics 

Both Salary.com and the statistics provided by the US Department of Labor are great snapshots of the average benefits, compensation, and lifestyles that different specialties experience. The strength of both of these sources lies in the sheer number of specialties they provide data on. Both are great sources for an initial look into the general profile of each specialty, and often provide data about parts of the country in need of each specialty. However, don’t rely too much on these sources, as they lack any real context or explanation. For more analysis and guidance on compensation trends, you’ll want to look at some of the other reports listed here. Data is updated oning Sample size/type: Not disclosed Methodology: Human resources and user reported data

Sullivan Cotter

Sullivan Cotter has been high on the list of physician compensation surveyors since the mid-nineties. Their surveys include data from over 200,000 physicians across the country. The information they compile is extensive, and is similar in scope to that of Merritt Hawkins. They ask those surveyed about starting salaries, bonuses and bonus structures, continued education, relocation assistance, and other kinds of compensation. You can trust that they have some of the most comprehensive and diverse data points of anyone in the physician compensation survey market. From fresh out of medical school to specialists at the peak of their careers, Sullivan Cotter includes a wide swath of the medical field in its analyses. It also surveys hospitals and large medical care providers to get a sense of their compensation schemes. Because of its massive data compilation techniques, access to their survey information does cost a pretty penny. But if you are looking to get a sense of the market, or to get targeted information for your specialty or employment setting, Sullivan Cotter survey reports are definitely worth looking into. Was last published July 2020 Sample size/type: 800 organizations on approximately 244,000 individual physicians Methodology: Online data collection tool Related Article: What Is Sullivan Cotter? What Physicians Need to Know

MGMA

Finally, the gold standard. MGMA provides the most comprehensive data available that summarizes physician compensation in a wide array of specialties. It offers both the depth and breadth of information that all of these sources combine, and there are some documents which provide executive summaries of the information presented. As an individual provider, however, this may be less accessible. MGMA data is licensed, and not something that most individuals access themselves. It is also an enormous set of data, which is often best sorted by compensation specialists and presented to individuals. This database is such a valuable resource for physicians that every physician who reviews and negotiates their employment contract with Physicians Thrive has access to every datapoint available within MGMA’s survey.  Was last published May 21, 2020 Sample size/type: 168,783 physicians Survey Method: Online survey

Conclusion

There are so many ways to get valuable information about how physicians of all specialties and subspecialties are compensated throughout the country. Before making any decisions, be sure to get a broad sense of the market, both from overviews like those of Doximity and Medscape, as well as from deep dives like MGMA, Merritt Hawkins, and Sullivan Cotter. Physicians Thrive aims to make this data both comprehensive and comprehensible through our 2020 Physician Compensation Report. Our report compiles data from most of these sources, making it the most convenient option for anyone looking to investigate compensation data. Request our report today!

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