Physician compensation rose as productivity fell in 2020

Physicians received higher pay in 2020, with a minor compensation increase, according to the annual AMGA Medical Group Compensation and Productivity Survey.

However, there was a significant decline in productivity, the survey found. The COVID-19 significantly impacted physicians’ abilities. The change in compensation compared against the financial struggles of healthcare organizations reveals they may need to consider compensation packages to ensure resiliency in case of more disruptions in the future. 

“The trends we saw in this year’s survey were the obvious result of flat compensation combined with a decline in volume of services,” said AMGA Consulting President Fred Horton, MHA. “Medical groups paid a steep price to retain their physician talent, even though productivity steeply declined. COVID-19 highlighted the need for medical groups and health systems to reconsider their compensation plans so that they rely less on obligatory annual pay increases and more on incentivizing productivity that rewards valuable outcomes. The shift to more value-based compensation models will help organizations become more resilient against future economic downturns.”

In 2020, physician compensation increased 0.12%. That compares to a 3.79% increase in 2019. However, productivity fell 10.17% in 2020 compared to the previous year. In 2019, productivity rose 0.56% per year. The compensation per work RVU (wRVU) ratio increased to 10.82%, up from 2.14% observed in 2019.

 

Productivity likely decreased, in part, because healthcare organizations and patients put routine care and elective procedures on hold throughout much of 2020. 

“While stark, this decline in wRVU was not surprising,” said Elizabeth Siemsen, AMGA consulting director. “Medical groups temporarily cancelling elective procedures, an inability for some patients to access healthcare services for portions of the year, and the apprehension of other patients to seek in-person care for fear of COVID-19 infection all played a role in the declines we observed.”

Primary care physicians saw a slightly higher bump in compensation last year, with an increase of 0.40%. Meanwhile, median productivity decreased by 10.63% and compensation per wRVU increased by 12.55%. Medical specialities saw a similar compensation change (0.39%). Surgeons presented the largest decline in productivity, with a median wRVU decrease of 11.97%, compared to a 1.95% increase observed in 2019, the survey found.

 

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