Study: Physician Earnings Increased in 2021

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Key Insights

  • A recent annual report shows that overall physician compensation increased by 3.8 percent in 2021.
  • However, due to inflation, physicians on average “experienced a decline in real income.”
  • Research revealed that female physicians were more likely to consider early retirement.

 

Study: Average Physician Compensation Increased — Though Not Evenly

Doximity’s annual physician compensation study found that physician compensation increased by 3.8 percent on average in 2021. Doximity attributed the rise to several possible factors, including a “tightening labor market as providers grapple with widespread burnout,” as Healthcare Dive reported. However, this increase in compensation was less than the 6.2 percent inflation rate.

The boost in compensation was not uniform. Urgent care centers experienced the greatest growth while academic and pharmaceutical settings saw the least. Additionally, the gender disparity widened. Male physicians earned, on average, 28.2 percent or approximately $122,700, more than their female counterparts on an annual basis.

Physicians Considering Early Retirement

According to the study, twenty-five percent of female physicians (and 20 percent of male physicians) reported that their “clinical workload during [the] COVID-19 pandemic” has caused them to consider early retirement. Peter Alperin, Vice President of Product at Doximity, linked this to higher rates of burnout among female physicians. The report showed that 73 percent of physicians reported “feeling overworked” with nearly half of respondents considering changing employment. Researchers noted that this “extra retirement could place additional stress on the remaining workforce as the pandemic continues and the nation faces a growing physician shortage.”

These findings align with a separate study by Morning Consult that found 18 percent of healthcare workers quit during the pandemic. Researchers speculate that “insufficient pay or opportunities and burnout” were leading causes. Furthermore, 79 percent of healthcare respondents claimed the national worker shortage has impacted their operations.

Organizations are taking steps to reduce the physician shortage. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) plan to add 1,000 new physician residency slots over the next five years. The program aims to “improve healthcare access” in “rural and underserved areas” by training and retaining physicians, according to CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure.

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