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High demand fuels spike in starting salaries for physicians, report shows

Report says starting salaries for primary care physicians, as well as in 19 different specialties saw double digit increases.

Beth Jones Sanborn, Managing Editor

Starting salaries for both primary care physicians and specialists have shot up in the last 12 months, according to a 2016 report by Merritt Hawkins, a physician search firm and subsidiary of AMN Healthcare. The spike represents a rising demand for physicians and amid the growing doctor shortage, Merritt Hawkins said.

In their 2016 Review of Physician and Advanced Practitioner Recruiting Incentives report, Merritt Hawkins analyzed the 3,342 physician recruiting assignments they completed from April 1, 2015 through March 31.

Results showed starting salaries increased year-over-year in 19 of the 20 medical specialties the report analyzed.

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Those specialties and their salaries include: family medicine, $225,000, up 13 percent year-over year; psychiatry, $250,000, up 11 percent; obstetrics-gynecology, $321,000, up 16 percent; dermatology, $444,000, up 13 percent; urology, $471,000, up 14 percent; otolaryngology, $380,000, up 15 percent; non-invasive cardiology, $403,000, up 21 percent; and general surgery, $378,000 up 12 percent, the report said.

It also pointed to five specialties where demand is highest. They were family medicine, psychiatry, internal medicine, hospitalist and obstetrics-gynecology. This is the first time that psychiatry has ranked so high, Merritt Hawkins said, highlighting not only the demand for those services, but also the growing crisis in mental health nationwide.

According to the firm, the federal government has designated 3,968 whole or partial counties as Health Professional Shortage Areas for mental health. Additionally, nearly half of U.S. counties lack mental health providers. For example, 185 of 254 counties in Texas have no general psychiatrist, according to Merritt Hawkins data. That's equivalent to 73 percent.

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Finally, the salary report showed that value-based physician incentives are gaining ground. 32 percent of Merritt Hawkins clients who offered physicians a production bonus last year based it in whole, or in part, on value-based metrics like patient satisfaction. That's up from 23 percent last year.

The report also indicates that only 6 percent of total physician compensation is tied to quality or value-based metrics.

Twitter: @BethJSanborn

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