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Physician salaries projected to increase

Group-based and primary care doctors will see highest increases

Specialty and primary care physicians can expect slight salary increases in 2014 says consulting firm, the Hay Group.

In its 2013 Physician Compensation Survey, the consulting firm predicts physicians' median salary will increase 2.4 percent in 2014. Doctors in group-based practices can expect to see larger pay increases (3.7 percent) than those in hospital-based settings (2.2 percent).

[See also: Infographic: Physician compensation]

“Overall physician compensation levels continue to modestly increase,” said Jim Otto, senior principal in Hay Group’s Healthcare Practice, in a news release accompanying the survey results. “We don’t expect to see any fundamental changes in the near future. Physicians are being tasked with a growing list of new demands -- from learning EHR systems to navigating new cost and business model structures -- which are influencing how employers want to address compensation increases.”

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Continuing a recent trend, primary care physicians can again expect to see slightly higher salary increases than specialists in 2014, particularly in hospital-based settings, according to the report.

“We have been seeing a slowdown in pay rate increases for physician specialists, and a bump up for generalists, over the last several years, and this trend seems to be continuing,” Otto said in the release. “This may be reflective of fewer graduates pursuing general medicine and additional responsibilities for generalists in driving pay-for-performance healthcare. The question remains if and how declining hospital revenues and reimbursement changes will affect physician pay.”

The 2013 Hay Group study found that the prevalence of annual incentive plans for physicians remains steady at 63 percent, compared with 64 percent reported in 2012. The measures used to determine incentive pay outs – both for individual and group performance – are reflective of providers’ shifting emphasis on quality and patient outcomes.

For individual physician performance, there were upticks reported in 2013 incentive plan metrics related to patient satisfaction (70 percent), quality (86 percent) and outcomes (54 percent), compared with 2012 (66 percent, 77 percent and 39 percent, respectively).

Group performance metrics in physician incentive plans tracked similarly upward for patient satisfaction (60 percent reported in 2013, compared with 50 percent reported in 2012) and quality (69 percent in 2013, compared with 56 percent in 2012).

“We expect an evolution – not revolution – in incentive plan design for physicians in coming years,” Otto added. “Providers are looking to translate their organizational goals in a more tangible way that will drive the desired behaviors and outcomes they want to achieve. They are still struggling with the best ways to align physicians and other employees with broader goals, and to measure output quality.”

Hay Group’s survey and subsequent reports cover 132 physician specialties, including 39 pediatric specialties. In addition, the physician compensation report covers 35 non-physician provider positions. The report utilizes data current as of March 1, 2013.