Doctors in the U.S. are facing a host of challenges in the midst of significant macroeconomic pressures – from physician shortages and burnout, to persistent gender pay gaps.
A recent report out of physician network Doximity dug into some of those issues, finding that doctors continue to shoulder numerous burdens that add to the high rate of burnout in the profession.
Among the key takeaways from this year’s report, the first is that average physician pay actually declined by 2.4% in 2022 – something Alperin noted he hadn’t seen before. That data was gathered through self-reported compensation responses from more than 190,000 doctors.
Doximity’s annual Physician Compensation Report seeks to give physicians “a voice in their own profession,” said Pete Alperin, the company’s VP of product.
Alperin noted the study has gathered a “more robust data set” throughout the several years, relying on self-reported data from doctors that illuminates trends around pay equity, compensation and burnout.
“The issue of gender equity and pay equity is an extremely important one,” Alperin said. “It’s an awareness thing – we wanted to provide commentary and data on it, so we can make people aware of this issue.”
One aspect that could further fuel physician compensation decline this year is the 2% cut in Medicare payments to physicians, which may be felt most among private practice doctors.
“If you’re a small physician practice, and you’re not supplemented by facility charges, you’re going to have a real issue,” Alperin said. “Because the costs of running a practice are going up — labor costs, material costs, rent — and your pay is actually going down.”
From a gender pay perspective, the upshot is, quite simply, the gap persists.
“The gap doesn’t seem to be closing all that well, and any slight changes over the years is mostly statistical noise,” Alperin said.
Doximity also reviewed data that included self-reported compensation among its physicians and found that on average, men made about $110,000 more than women in 2022. Over the course of a career, that disparity can add up to a difference of nearly $2 million.
While the study didn’t examine the drivers behind the persistent pay gap, Alperin noted it tends to fluctuate yearly, but doesn’t make much overall progress.
“Clearly the pay gap is a long-standing and proven issue that needs to be rectified,” he said.
More than four-in-five physicians also reported being overworked, with 66% saying they’ve considered an employment change.
All of these findings play into a looming physician shortage that started years ago, and is expected to increase over the next decade. Currently, the primary care field is most hard hit with shortages.
“The implications [of these trends] are real,” Alperin explained. “There’s a general decrease in pay, the looming Medicare pay cut — and then the persistent gender pay gap. All of these things are pressures on physicians to consider staying or not staying in the practice of medicine.”