Cardiovascular surgeons, invasive cardiologists are top revenue-generators for hospitals

The average cardiovascular surgeon drives nearly $3.7 million in net revenue each year for a hospital system, the most among 18 physician specialties included in a survey of hospital chief financial officers. Invasive cardiologists weren’t far behind, ranking No. 2 at almost $3.5 million per year.

The survey, conducted by the physician search and consulting firm Merritt Hawkins, featured responses from 62 hospital CFOs or financial managers, who provided data on 93 separate hospitals.

When pooling all physician specialties, the average revenue generated was almost $2.4 million, the highest of the seven times this survey has been conducted and a 52 percent increase from the most recent report in 2016 ($1.56 million). Invasive cardiologists were one of the groups that made a big jump, driving $2.4 million in hospital revenue in 2016 and almost $3.5 million in 2019.

“These results suggest that value-based delivery models have not reduced the volume and/or the cost of physician specialty care, and that such efforts may be trumped by both the continued prevalence of fee-for-service payment models and, in particular, by increased utilization of physician services driven by population aging,” according to the report.

Results included both inpatient and outpatient revenues generated from hospital admissions, tests, treatments, prescriptions and procedures performed or ordered by physicians, who remain the gatekeepers of most of these interventions.

In a statement, Travis Singleton, executive vice president of Merritt Hawkins, pointed out the number of hospital outpatient visits has more than tripled since 1975, coinciding with a rise in patient acuity. These changes, along with higher costs per inpatient stay, are responsible for the greater utilization of healthcare services initiated by physicians—and the higher revenue that stems from those services.

“Demographics are our destiny,” Singleton said. “New delivery models that promote prevention, population health and fee-for-value are laudable innovations but they don’t change the basic facts. People get older and require more medical care, with much of it ordered by or directly provided by physicians.”

Aside from cardiovascular surgeons and invasive cardiologists, neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons were the only other specialists who averaged more than $3 million in revenue generated each year. Noninvasive cardiologists ranked 10th overall at $2.3 million, while primary care physicians were responsible for $2.1 million in net revenue.