Family practice base salary continues to improve

Family practice has done better than other primary care specialties in recent years in terms of improvement in base salary, according to a new survey. The top five of 112 surveyed were, in order, gastroenterology, orthopedic surgery, hematology (oncology), otolaryngology, and family practice, according to the Hay Group's Physician Compensation Survey, which also found that physicians in independent groups had greater gains than those who work in hospitals.

The finding is of interest in light of the effects of the federal Stark II guidelines that prohibit a physician from referring patients for designated health services to any entity (including his own medical practice or group) with which he has a financial relationship.

Before Stark II, a practice could collect fees through referrals from physicians within the organization. Those fees could affect base salary.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has recommended six compensation surveys conducted by consultants that health care organizations can rely on to demonstrate that a payment to a physician falls within one of the exceptions to the Stark II prohibition. Stark II went into effect late last year. “It will be interesting to see how these organizations will use Stark II to design their compensation structure,” says Dilek Karabucak, health care information consultant at the Hay Group.