What Is Sullivan Cotter? What Physicians Need to Know

Interestingly, the market for physicians is an ever-fluctuating scale. Healthcare organizations want to keep costs low while maintaining physician productivity and fair compensation.

To find benchmark numbers that ensure a successful healthcare business requires a lot of data.


The development of independent consulting firms met the need for this data. They took the initiative to create a document that gave these healthcare organizations the information they needed.

In order to be accurate in their statistical data, these sources had to have a significant number of participants to be reliable. Each of these consulting firms survey thousands of physicians from a variety of specialties in order to make their survey data accurate.

Sullivan Cotter and Associates is one of the leading and most influential consulting firms in that industry.

This article will give an in-depth explanation of the role they play in the determination of your potential salary. And how they go about accomplishing that.

What Exactly Is Sullivan Cotter?

Sullivan Cotter defines their business as one that provides “workforce information and solutions that enable business strategy through performance improvement.”

But what does that really entail?

Moreover, what they do as an independent consulting firm is study the effects, benefits, and implications of different workforce strategies in the medical field. Sullivan Cotter helps healthcare organizations manage their businesses to reach their objectives.

Through their efforts, they also compile a lot of data that can be useful to the physician as well.

They do this through a variety of avenues. Three of which can impact the lives of physicians employed through organizations that use Sullivan Cotter’s services.

Compensation Design

Additionally, Sullivan Cotter works with organizations like hospitals and practices to aid in the development of a strategic compensation plan for their physicians.

They create a plan that includes compensation models and reward practices that are meant to not only attract the best physicians. But also keep those physicians happy and productive long term.

With better performing doctors, they can have higher patient satisfaction and reach their business objectives.

Related: Your Full Guide to Physician Compensation

Workforce Analytics

In order to determine whether a strategy is working or which strategy to employ, Sullivan Cotter will also help healthcare organizations compile and analyze workforce data.

In addition, they measure data and advise organizations on the best way to optimize the work performance of employees on all levels.

Productivity Benchmarking

Sullivan Cotter will also, through the use of workforce analytics, provide their customers with productivity benchmarking to see where they stand in comparison with their top competitors and the area as a whole.

In reality, Sullivan Cotter provides a vast array of services to improve the overall function and financial health of medical businesses.

Dave Hesselink, Principal of Sullivan Cotter, described it very well in his interview on The Hospital Finance Podcast when he said:
“Sullivan Cotter partners with healthcare organizations across the country and our objective is really to help drive performance and improve outcomes through the development and implementation of what we call integrated workforce strategies.

The workforces that we focus on include executives, physicians, advanced practice providers, and other employees. More specifically, in the physician space, we help those health care organizations optimize performance while managing the complex regulatory risk that they face from their financial relationships. With both employed and independent physicians.

In that space, we provide an array of services. Including physician compensation design, fair market value of commercial reasonable assessments, physician affiliation and needs assessments, business valuations. As well as other advisory support. And in addition to our consulting services, we also offer data and software to help attract, retain, and engage the executive and clinical workforces.”

History of Sullivan Cotter

Sullivan Cotter and Associates, Inc. was founded in 1992 by Tim Cotter. Who now acts as managing director of the company. The president and CEO is now Theodore Chien.

They have a total of twelve locations, with a high concentration in the northwest United States, with main branches in New York, Minneapolis, and Atlanta, as well as locations in San Francisco and Parsippany.

They are an expanding company, and according to owler.com, they employ about 200 people.

Moreover, today they are a trusted source for healthcare organizations that need data and advice on how much to offer when hiring new physicians. They also provide data on how to continue to keep productivity levels high and what workforce strategies should be implemented to meet regulatory requirements.

How Does Sullivan Cotter Get Their Data?

SullivanCotter data
As the leading independent consulting firm, what is their formula for putting together these reports?

To have such a comprehensive guide, Sullivan Cotter and Associates surveys over 200,000 physicians, APPs, and PhDs from across the nation. They have participants from many specialties, locations, and medical groups. Also, they survey almost 700 different hospitals and medical groups.

They do their best to represent every level of the market. From those right out of residency to partners in private practice — to ensure the integrity of the data. This is a reason that some professionals trust their survey report over their competitors.

Types of Data

Furthermore, to compile a complete and accurate set of data, Sullivan Cotter has put together a list of questions that they ask their participants to answer. These questions are extensive and very specific in nature.

Many of these questions concern compensation, including:

  • Base salary
  • Bonuses
  • Relocation assistance
  • Continued education reimbursement
  • Any other form of payment

They also inquire about benefits packages and value-based compensation structures. This covers the amount and types distributed for all levels of staff. From newly hired physicians to chair members.

The data collected also includes the number of patient visits and collections per organization — the productivity of the staff, workplace RVU, and panel sizes.

Regional and organizational characteristics of the participants are filtered and grouped to get a productivity ratio based on compensation plans used by the healthcare organizations.

The data will cover low, median, and high salary ranges over a variety of specialties.

Related: The Definitive Guide to wRVU Physician Compensation

Benefits of Participation

Because the survey is so long, you may consider being a participant as too time-consuming and too much of a bother. However, without the participation of other physicians, the market value of your pay would be subject to the discretion of healthcare organizations.

To help keep the report accurate as possible, you should consider participating. The more physicians that are included, the more accurate the data will be. This will then allow hospitals and organizations to pay better. And provide a better productivity-based compensation plan to you in the future.

Not only will you help keep the pay for physicians fair, but you will also understand the market better yourself when and if you ever need a new placement.

All participants receive a large discount on the purchase of their own copy of the survey. You can apply for participation in one of the Sullivan Cotter surveys here.

Related: How Female Physicians Can Counteract the Gender Pay Gap

Cost of Survey Report

Sullivan Cotter offers the most comprehensive surveys available, and they use a large sum of resources to make this possible. For this reason, their survey isn’t cheap.

Each of their surveys cost between $4800 and $2100 for non-participants, and $1200 to $525 for participants — except for the Medical Group Compensation and Productivity Survey, which is complementary to participants.

Surveys Available:

  • Manager and Executive Compensation in Hospitals and Health Systems Survey
  • Physician Executive Compensation Survey
  • Medical Group Executive Compensation Survey
  • Physician Compensation and Productivity Survey
  • Medical Group Compensation and Productivity Survey
  • Hospital-Based Physician Compensation and Work Effort Survey
  • Advanced Practice Provider Compensation and Pay Practices Survey
  • Benefits Practices in Hospitals and Health Systems Survey
  • Health Care Staff Compensation Survey
  • Endowment and Foundation Investment Staff Compensation Survey
  • Not-For-Profit Manager and Executive Compensation Survey

This infographic has a full breakdown of surveys and costs in 2020.

Related: Physician’s Guide to Salary Negotiation

Sullivan Cotter vs. Medscape

There are many other independent consulting firms that perform physician compensation surveys. You may wonder how they relate and if they are worth reading as well.

Medscape is a newer contender in the physician compensation survey market. Their survey is easier to understand, taking the meaty data and turning it into easily digestible information.

Their report is free, so it wouldn’t bring any risk to yourself by considering their information. However, keep in mind that they survey a much smaller audience, and their data will not be as accurate as that of Sullivan Cotter.

Sullivan Cotter vs. AMGA

AMGA, or American Medical Group Association, has been around about as long as Sullivan Cotter and Associates.

Their report isn’t quite as extensive as that of Sullivan Cotter’s, and the cost is similar.

Their compensation survey reports on multispecialty groups and offers participants, both physicians and organizations, a free report of the survey in which they participated.

Finally, their report includes compensation and productivity data for individuals in many major specialties and medical groups.

Sullivan Cotter vs. MGMA

MGMA is another company that completes a physician compensation survey. Theirs is called the MGMA DataDive.

Their report covers much of the same data, such as the compensation plans, benefit and productivity metrics, and access to their research and analysis reports. Compared to Sullivan Cotter’s over 200,000 physicians participating, MGMA surveys about 147,000 participants.

The main difference between Sullivan Cotter and MGMA is that the latter tailor their data for the use of smaller organizations. This report is sold to small clinics with six physicians or less, or to individuals, and members get a discounted price of the report.

Related: MGMA Salary Data Provider Review

Read about more Compensation Providers:
Salary.comComparably  |  Payscale  |  Doximity  |  ZipRecruiter  |  Merritt Hawkins  |  Top Reports of 2020

Sullivan Cotter vs. Merritt Hawkins

Merritt Hawkins is a large contender in the physician search firm industry. They compile their own data of the physicians’ compensation market based on salaries offered for positions, not actual earnings.

Furthermore, their report contains data only from the physicians placed through their recruiting firm, and they perform this work to use the data for their own benefit. This leaves out the compensation of a large portion of the physicians in the nation and is not an accurate representation of the market.

They do offer their report for free, however, and it would be foolish not to take a look at their numbers.

Related: Physician Recruiting — Merrit Hawkins Review

How to Use Their Data

How to use SullivanCotter data
Now, you might be wondering what the information contained in these surveys would actually do for you as a physician.

How would you benefit from the data within?

There are a few ways that you can use these surveys in your professional career.

Moreover, having the numbers in hand when you come to the table in negotiations with any prospective employers will give you more leverage to ask for a fair salary and benefits package.

It can also be beneficial to know the demographic pay range. Knowing where physicians are being paid well can help you decide where or if you would like to relocate for better pay.

You can use the information in the Sullivan Cotter Physician Compensation survey in conjunction with other reports for a comprehensive breakdown of the market and help you make informed decisions in regards to your career advancement.

Additionally, it’s important when trying to get an accurate representation of the market that you remember the inherent flaw in the databases. Such as MGMA, AMGA, Medscape, and Merritt Hawkins compensation surveys.

Their surveys aren’t as accurate as that of Sullivan Cotter’s because the best-paid physicians don’t get included every time. Their overall numbers tend to be lower than the actual market.

These sources are not bad. However, it’s safe to assume the actual market is 10-20% better than what all physicians are being paid.

Learn how to negotiate your contract. Read Can You Negotiate Physician Contracts and Physician Contracts: Value of Multiple Offers to find out more or contact Physicians Thrive for expert advice.


Therefore, the healthcare industry is a very competitive business. As a key part of that industry, your career holds a lot of weight.

Additionally, having the information that Sullivan Cotter and other compensation surveys reveal can help you to have a more accurate expectation when it comes time to negotiate your salary.

Of course, the information is heavy and complicated. Don’t hesitate to contact our team for help to digest and navigate this report.

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