Perspective

IDSA survey reveals lower salaries, gender inequality

New survey data on compensation for ID experts further underscores the need to improve salaries, which are sometimes less than half of what other specialists earn, according to the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

The online survey was distributed to 6,793 active IDSA members from May to June 2017. About 2,500 professionals in patient care (65%), research (20%) and public health (4%) responded to the questionnaire. Among them, 90% reported being employed full time.

Overall, the median income for ID experts was $215,000 per year. When broken down by career focus, median annual income was:

  • $215,000 for patient care;
  • $190,000 for research;
  • $189,500 for public health; and
  • $265,000 for other job descriptions.

Women made less than men in each job category, earning:

  • $250,000 vs. $300,000 for owning a private practice;
  • $200,000 vs. $220,000 for being employed by a private practice;
  • $220,000 vs. $250,000 for working in a hospital or clinic;
  • $170,000 vs. $195,500 for working in an academic medical center;
  • $171,500 vs. $220,000 for conducting research; and
  • $175,000 vs. $201,500 for working in public health.

Previous surveys have shown that ID compensation is among the lowest compared with other specialties. According to the 2018 Medscape Physician Compensation Survey, the five top-earning specialties are plastic surgery ($501,000), orthopedics ($497,000), cardiology ($423,000) gastroenterology ($408,000) and radiology ($401,000). Meanwhile, the lowest earning specialties are pediatrics ($212,000), endocrinology ($212,000), family medicine ($219,000), internal medicine ($230,000) and ID ($231,000).

This issue has contributed to a decrease in ID fellowship applicants. To address this issue, IDSA is expanding its initiatives to ensure that medical students continue to pursue a career in ID. The organization said it is increasing efforts to provide more mentorship and scholarship opportunities; encourage federal officials and third-party payers to improve compensation; and support research demonstrating the value of ID physicians.

“ID specialists provide essential care and expertise to patients and, behind the scenes, it’s important to understand the significant value they bring to health care, as well as how they are compensated based on those roles,” Christopher D. Busky, CAE, chief executive officer for IDSA, said in a press release. “Unfortunately, as ID specialists retire, new physicians are not coming into the field at the same rate because of the financial challenges, particularly in areas such as public health. Compensation needs to adequately reflect ID specialists’ value to ensure safe and effective care for patients.”

Reference:

IDSA. 2017 Compensation Survey. http://www.idsociety.org/uploadedFiles/IDSA/Manage_Your_Practice/Compensation/2017%20IDSA%20Comp%20Survey_REPORT_Final.pdf. Accessed April 13, 2017.

Medscape. Medscape Physician Compensation Report 2018. https://www.medscape.com/slideshow/2018-compensation-overview-6009667#1. Accessed April 30, 2018.

Disclosures: Infectious Disease News was unable to confirm relevant financial disclosures at the time of publication.

Editor’s note: This story was updated with information from the 2018 Medscape Physician Compensation Survey.

New survey data on compensation for ID experts further underscores the need to improve salaries, which are sometimes less than half of what other specialists earn, according to the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

The online survey was distributed to 6,793 active IDSA members from May to June 2017. About 2,500 professionals in patient care (65%), research (20%) and public health (4%) responded to the questionnaire. Among them, 90% reported being employed full time.

Overall, the median income for ID experts was $215,000 per year. When broken down by career focus, median annual income was:

  • $215,000 for patient care;
  • $190,000 for research;
  • $189,500 for public health; and
  • $265,000 for other job descriptions.

Women made less than men in each job category, earning:

  • $250,000 vs. $300,000 for owning a private practice;
  • $200,000 vs. $220,000 for being employed by a private practice;
  • $220,000 vs. $250,000 for working in a hospital or clinic;
  • $170,000 vs. $195,500 for working in an academic medical center;
  • $171,500 vs. $220,000 for conducting research; and
  • $175,000 vs. $201,500 for working in public health.

Previous surveys have shown that ID compensation is among the lowest compared with other specialties. According to the 2018 Medscape Physician Compensation Survey, the five top-earning specialties are plastic surgery ($501,000), orthopedics ($497,000), cardiology ($423,000) gastroenterology ($408,000) and radiology ($401,000). Meanwhile, the lowest earning specialties are pediatrics ($212,000), endocrinology ($212,000), family medicine ($219,000), internal medicine ($230,000) and ID ($231,000).

This issue has contributed to a decrease in ID fellowship applicants. To address this issue, IDSA is expanding its initiatives to ensure that medical students continue to pursue a career in ID. The organization said it is increasing efforts to provide more mentorship and scholarship opportunities; encourage federal officials and third-party payers to improve compensation; and support research demonstrating the value of ID physicians.

“ID specialists provide essential care and expertise to patients and, behind the scenes, it’s important to understand the significant value they bring to health care, as well as how they are compensated based on those roles,” Christopher D. Busky, CAE, chief executive officer for IDSA, said in a press release. “Unfortunately, as ID specialists retire, new physicians are not coming into the field at the same rate because of the financial challenges, particularly in areas such as public health. Compensation needs to adequately reflect ID specialists’ value to ensure safe and effective care for patients.”

Reference:

IDSA. 2017 Compensation Survey. http://www.idsociety.org/uploadedFiles/IDSA/Manage_Your_Practice/Compensation/2017%20IDSA%20Comp%20Survey_REPORT_Final.pdf. Accessed April 13, 2017.

Medscape. Medscape Physician Compensation Report 2018. https://www.medscape.com/slideshow/2018-compensation-overview-6009667#1. Accessed April 30, 2018.

Disclosures: Infectious Disease News was unable to confirm relevant financial disclosures at the time of publication.

Editor’s note: This story was updated with information from the 2018 Medscape Physician Compensation Survey.

    Perspective
    Paul G. Auwaerter

    Paul G. Auwaerter

    The opportunities in ID are extensive. The rich rewards helping patients with challenging diagnoses and complex treatment needs are magnified by ID clinicians knowing that their decisions also impact population health. Perhaps no other specialty involving direct patient care has such a prominent intersection with public health — ready to incorporate fast-changing circumstances due to evolving antimicrobial resistance or outbreaks of infections.

    The imbalance of physician salaries historically has tilted toward procedural specialties. In a health care landscape that is evolving toward value-based care, cognitive specialties are positioned to argue for improving care and preventing illness. Specialties such as ID should be valued fairly for their contributions. IDSA is advancing arguments to federal agencies and third-party payors to improve compensation. With an equitable pay range, this should correct over time the predicted shortages of ID and HIV clinicians.

    • Paul G. Auwaerter, MD
    • President, IDSA Sherrilyn and Ken Fisher Professor of Medicine Clinical director, division of infectious diseases Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

    Disclosures: Auwaerter reports no relevant financial disclosures.