As the United States faces a widespread provider shortage, salaries for the 20 most-sought physician specialists and advance-practice nurses rose during the past year, according to a report from Texas-based physician recruiter Merritt Hawkins.

“You could say universally every single salary segment went up, and most of them did it in double-digit style, which is abnormal,” Travis Singleton, senior vice president at Merritt Hawkins, told HealthLeaders Media.

The company’s 23rd annual salary review was based on in-house findings from 3,342 physician and advanced-practice nurse recruiting requests between April 1, 2015, and March 31, 2016.

Average starting salaries for family medicine, as tracked by Merritt Hawkins’ yearly reviews, have never exceeded $200,000. That changed in the company’s 2016 review, which indicates that the average starting salary offer made to family physicians is now $225,000, up from $199,000 in 2015––a 13% increase. Average starting salaries for general internists also showed a significant increase, from $207,000 in the 2015 review to $237,000 in 2016––a 14% increase. Salary increases in psychiatry, from $226,000 in 2015 to $250,000 in 2016 (an 11% increase), can be tied to an increased demand for that specialty, according to the report. Average salaries for nurse practitioners increased year over year, from $107,000 in the 2015 review to $117,000 in 2016.

This year’s starting salaries for specific specialties include:

  • Urology: $471,000 (up 14%)
  • Dermatology: $444,000 (up 13%)
  • Noninvasive cardiology: $403,000 (up 21%)
  • Otolaryngology: $380,000 (up 15%)
  • General surgery: $378,000 (up 12%)
  • Obstetrics-gynecology: $321,000 (up 16%)

Merritt Hawkins’ 2016 review indicates that physician salaries tend to be lowest in the Northeast. A high ratio of physicians per capita in the Northeast creates competition, suppressing salaries, as does a relatively high prevalence of managed care/capitated compensation plans, the report states. The Southwest, including Texas, has a generally higher rate of fee-for-service medicine combined with relatively fewer physicians per capita, driving salaries upward.

Further, the survey data indicate that physicians typically are paid on value/quality through production bonuses that feature metrics such as patient satisfaction, meaningful use, and others. In the 2016 review, these value/quality metrics accounted for 29% of the total bonus amount and for about 6% of total physician compensation.

Sources: Merritt Hawkins; June 2016; and HealthLeaders Media; June 6, 2016.

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