Despite reimbursement changes, cardiologists’ compensation continues to increase

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A shift towards value-based care and making physicians more accountable for patient outcomes have made many cardiologists worry about their careers and the future of medicine. For now, though, they continue to see their compensation increase.

In 2015, the median compensation for cardiologists working in hospital integrated practices increased to $577,756, and the median compensation for cardiologists working in private groups increased to $486,777, according to a survey from MedAxiom.

The median compensation in 2014 was $555,411 and $470,160, respectively. Compensation increased for all subspecialties, except for general non-invasive cardiologists from 2014 to 2015. Interventional physicians had the largest increase in compensation.

In all, 3,815 full-time physicians representing 183 practices completed the survey. MedAxiom collected data from 153 hospital integrated practices and 30 private groups. The practices had a median of 12 full-time equivalent (FTE) physicians.

The authors noted that the number of invasive physicians in 2015 was the lowest in six years, which they wrote could be due to physicians in the catheterization lab performing more interventions.

The median compensation in 2015 was $627,030 for cardiac surgeons and $478,079 for vascular surgeons. In 2014, the median compensation was $584,854 and $570,345, respectively. The authors mentioned that the decrease for vascular surgeons was likely due to survey bias because the number of vascular surgeons who responded to the survey tripled from 2014 to 2015.

In 2015, 31 percent of cardiologists were 46 years old or younger, 39 percent were between 47 and 58 years old, 26 percent were between 59 and 70 years old and 4 percent were 71 years old or older. The survey found that 39 percent of non-invasive physicians and 31 percent of interventional cardiologists were 59 years old or older.

Based on work Relative Value units (wRVUs), physicians between the ages of 49 and 53 were the most productive with a mean wRVU of 11,837 per FTE. The wRVUs per FTE were 10,037 for cardiologists between 31 and 58 years old and 8,145 for cardiologists between 59 and 86 years old, which represents a nearly 19 percent reduction in work.

The median wRVU was 10,494 for cardiologists in private groups and 9,498 for cardiologists in hospital integrated practices. Among subspecialties, the median wRVU was 8,013 for general non-invasive cardiologists, 9,136 for invasive cardiologists, 10,446 for interventional cardiologists and 11,637 for electrophysiologists.

For private practices, the median compensation per wRVU was $38.53 for electrophysiologists, $60.88 for invasive cardiologists, $40.18 for general non-invasive cardiologists and $45.12 for interventional cardiologists. For hospital integrated practices, the median compensation per wRVU was $51.58 for electrophysiologists, $59.14 for invasive cardiologists, $62.10 for general non-invasive cardiologists and $58.04 for interventional cardiologists.

The median compensation per wRVU was $61.62 for cardiac surgeons and $60.97 for vascular surgeons . Private surgeons had a median compensation of $40.72 per wRVU, while integrated surgeons had a median compensation of $62.80 per wRVU.

Joel Sauer, vice president of MedAxiom Consulting, wrote in the report that physicians next year will have to deal with changes brought about through the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA). Under MACRA, physicians will be compensated based on value-based reimbursement models or the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System. Sauer noted that physicians would likely have difficulty understanding what’s required under MACRA and achieving results.

“Given all the industry changes, groups—whether private or integrated—must think hard about how physicians in their organizations are compensated,” Sauer said in a news release. “The truth is that we as human beings respond to our incentives. Thus, we must create economic alignment between providers, strategic objectives and reimbursement models—or we will watch our organizations flounder. It’s that simple.”