A survey of 2574 full-time physicians revealed that cardiologists’ compensation rose to $542 000 in 2014—a $30 000 increase from 2013 but still short of the high of $548 000 in 2012.

In the survey by MedAxiom Consulting, which bills itself as the nation’s top cardiovascular service line consulting firm, researchers attributed most of the increase to a change in the subspecialty recording mix with a difference in the ratios of private physicians participating in the survey.

In 2013, 201 noninvasive physicians, the lowest paid of all cardiology subspecialties, participated in the survey. This number decreased to 126 participants in 2014. In contrast, the number of interventional physicians—the highest-paid subspecialty—participating in the survey increased by 31 in 2014.


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“It is this ratio mix that caused the overall median to increase, not any real improvement in private physician compensation over the past year,” wrote Joel Sauer, vice president of MedAxiom Consulting. “The result of this survey bias caused the private physician compensation to spike over 10% from a median level of $425 897 per [full-time employee (FTE)] in 2013 to $470 160 in 2014.”

In line with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) goal to move 50% of reimbursement from volume to some form of value by the CMS fiscal year of 2018, overall production levels as measured by work relative value units fell for the fifth straight year. Median cardiology production for 2014 was 9538 per FTE physician compared with 9637 in 2013 and 10 007 in 2012.

Similarly, total image stress studies also decreased for a fourth straight year from 286 per FTE in 2013 to 272 per FTE in 2014.

“A significant contributor to this decline was the continued erosion of nuclear [single-photon emission computed tomography] volumes where the ratio of tests performed to total cognitive encounters (a strong measure of cardiology patient population) dropped from 9% in 2010 to just 7.1% in 2014,” Sauer wrote.

Compensation for cardiac and vascular surgeons was very similar, with cardiac surgeons making a median $584 854 per year and vascular surgeons making a median $570 345 per year.

The survey also showed a dramatic increase in the number of cardiologists and other physicians who moved from private practice to integration within a hospital or health system. In 2013, less than 50% of cardiology practices were integrated within a hospital or health system. That number increased to 73% in 2014 and was even higher for cardiovascular surgeons, at 85%. These numbers align with the survey’s findings that both cardiologists and cardiac surgeons fare better in an integrated system, with private cardiologists making a median salary of $470 160 in 2014 and integrated cardiologists making $555 411. Private cardiac surgeons made a median of $434 546 in 2014 and integrated surgeons made a median of $592 804.

Reference

Sauer J. Report: 2015 Cardiovascular Provider Compensation and Production Survey. MedAxiom. 2015; http://cardiobrief.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/PhysCompProdSurvey_2015_F_SP.pdf.