Demand Drives Up Starting Salaries for Physicians and Advanced Practitioners

physician-adv.practitioner-growing-salariesStarting salaries for both primary care and specialist physicians spiked in the last 12 months, according to a report released this month, reflecting the continually rising demand – and persistent shortage – for physicians.

Prepared by Merritt Hawkins, the nation’s leading physician search firm and a company of AMN Healthcare, the 2016 Review of Physician and Advanced Practitioner Recruiting Incentives tracks 3,342 physician and advanced practitioner recruiting assignments the firm conducted from April 1, 2015, to March 31, 2016. Now in its 23rd year, the report indicates that starting salaries increased year-over-year in 19 of the 20 medical specialties for which the report provides data.

Annual starting salaries and year-over-year increases for select specialties include:

  • Family medicine, $225,000, up 13% year-over year
  • Psychiatry, $250,000, up 11%
  • Obstetrics-gynecology, $ 321,000, up 16%
  • Dermatology, $444,000, up 13%
  • Urology, $471,000, up 14%
  • Otolaryngology, $380,000, up 15%
  • Non-invasive cardiology, $403,000, up 21%
  • General surgery, $378,000, up 12%

“Demand for physicians is as intense as we have seen it in our 29-year history,” said Travis Singleton, Senior Vice President of Merritt Hawkins. “The expansion of health insurance coverage, population growth, population aging, and multiplying sites of service such as urgent care centers is driving demand for doctors through the roof, and salaries are spiking as a consequence.”

A Crisis in Mental Health

The five types of medical specialties in most demand, according to the report, are family medicine, psychiatry, internal medicine, hospitalist, and obstetrics-gynecology. The 2016 report marks the first time psychiatry has ranked as high as second on the Merritt Hawkins list of most in-demand physicians, underscoring an emerging crisis in mental health.

The federal government has designated 3,968 whole or partial counties as Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) for mental health, and close to half the counties in the U.S. have no mental health provider. In Texas, 185 of 254 counties (73%) have no general psychiatrist, according to a Merritt Hawkins data.

Advanced Practitioners in Demand

Increasing salaries for nurse practitioners, physician assistants and other advanced practitioners reflect rising demand amid the shift to the team-based care model. The approximately 110,000 PAs and over 190,000 NPs now practicing in the United States play a growing role in healthcare delivery due to increased scope of practice regulations, cost considerations, and their proven ability to increase patient access and patient satisfaction. Over 97% of nurse practitioners can prescribe medications while 21 states and the District of Columbia allow NPs to practice independently.

The average salary of nurse practitioners jumped 9% from April 1, 2015, to March 31, 2016, to $117,000. For physician assistants, it grew 7% to $114,000.

Physician Employment and Value-Based Pay

The Merritt Hawkins report suggests a potential reemergence of private, independent physician practice. Five percent of Merritt Hawkins’ search assignments in the previous year featured an independent, solo practice setting, up from less than one percent two years ago. Many of these solo settings feature the “concierge” or “direct pay” practice model. However, approximately 90% of Merritt Hawkins’ search assignments in the last year featured employment of the physician by a hospital, medical group, urgent care center, Federally Quality Health Clinic or other employer.

The new report also suggests that the use of value-based physician incentives is gaining momentum. Of those clients offering physicians a production bonus last year, 32% based the bonus in whole or in part on value-based metrics such as patient satisfaction, compared to 23% the previous year. However, the report indicates that only 6% of total physician compensation is tied to quality or value-based metrics.

A copy of the report can obtained by calling Merritt Hawkins at 800-876-0500.