Gastroenterologists Among the Top Five Earners: Report

Gastroenterologists’ average annual income rose from $453,000 in 2021 to $501,000 in 2022 — an increase of 11%, second only to oncologists’ 13% bump, according to the 2023 Medscape Gastroenterologist Compensation Report.

In terms of 2022 income, gastroenterologists finished fifth among the 29 specialties in the Medscape survey of more than 10,000 physicians. The top earners were plastic surgeons ($619,000), orthopedists ($573,000), cardiologists ($507,000), and urologists ($506,000).

For employed physicians, compensation figures include salary, bonus, and profit-sharing contributions. For self-employed physicians, they include earnings after taxes and deductible business expenses before income tax. Only full-time salaries were included in the results.

Since Medscape’s 2015 compensation report, gastroenterologists’ average compensation has increased by about 35%. In some specialties, gastroenterology among them, average physician compensation dipped between 2020 and 2021 (covering data from calendar years 2019 and 2020), when the COVID-19 pandemic began to batter the US economy.

Physician compensation overall has generally increased in recent years though.

“Supply and demand is the biggest driver,” says Mike Belkin, JD, divisional vice president at Merritt Hawkins, a physician recruitment firm. “Organizations understand it’s not getting any easier to get good candidates, and so for the most part, physicians are getting good offers.”

Closing the Gender Pay Gap?

Among physicians overall, men this year earned 19% more on average than women — still a significant disparity, but the lowest gap in 5 years.

For specialists generally, men earned 27% more on average than women, a slightly smaller gap than in the two previous reports.

“Due to efforts by many, some institutions and healthcare organizations have reviewed their salary lines and recognized the discrepancies, not only between the sexes but also between new hires, which can be offered significantly more than those more senior physicians who have been working there for years and hired under a different pay structure,” says Theresa Rohr-Kirchgraber, MD, president of the American Medical Women’s Association.

When Medscape asked gastroenterologists what types of competition affect their income, 20% answered nonphysician practitioners (same as physicians overall), 7% responded physicians or insurers doing telemedicine, and 5% said “minute clinics” and big box store clinics like Walmart.

About 30% of gastroenterologists said they take on additional work inside or outside the medical profession, a rate similar to that in last year’s report (29%). Many physicians take side gigs to give life to their talents or get emotional relief from work, but others do so to bring in more money, the report notes.

Gastroenterologists landed toward the middle (56%) of all physicians in terms of feeling fairly compensated for their work. Infectious disease specialists were at the bottom (35%), while psychiatrists (68%), dermatologists (65%), and public health and preventive medicine specialists (65%) were most apt to feel fairly compensated.

If given the opportunity to revisit their career decision, 77% of gastroenterologists said they would choose medicine again and 92% would pick gastroenterology again — in line with last year’s report.

Challenges and Rewards

About half (52%) of gastroenterologists spend 30 to 40 hours each week seeing patients, 11% spend less than 30 hours per week, and 37% spend 41 to 60+ hours a week with patients.

Gastroenterologists devote almost 13 hours per week handling paperwork and administration, placing them among the middle third of all physicians. This year, the average for physicians overall was about 15.5 hours per week. Of that, 9 hours are spent on electronic health record (EHR) documentation.

Similar to last year, most gastroenterologists surveyed this year (71%) plan to continue taking Medicare and/or Medicaid patients, 7% won’t take new Medicare patients, and 2% won’t take on new Medicaid patients. One fifth of respondents said they have not yet decided.

This year, 65% of physicians overall said they would continue taking new Medicare patients — the lowest percentage seen in Medscape compensation reports, suggesting that more physicians are feeling the pinch owing to reduced Medicare and Medicaid payments.

More than 1 in 5 gastroenterologists (22%) indicated that they would drop low-paying insurers, but most would not because of business, ethical, or other reasons.

What do gastroenterologists find most rewarding about their job? Similar to last year’s report, being good at what they do/finding answers and diagnoses tops the list (41%), followed by relationships with/gratitude from patients (19%), making the world a better place/helping others (10%), and making good money at a job they like (9%). A few cited pride in their profession (8%) and teaching (4%).

The most challenging part of their job is having to follow so many rules and regulations (18%). Other challenges include having to work long hours (16%), dealing with difficult patients (15%), trouble getting fair reimbursement (15%), working with EHR systems (14%), and worry about being sued (6%).

The full report is available online.

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