Cardiology still draws suitors but radiology’s a wallflower

Cardiology held onto its spot as one of most sought after specialties in an analysis of physician recruitment requests, while once-hot radiology dropped from the top 20 list. Income data suggest not all is rosy for cardiologists, though.

The healthcare search firm Merritt Hawkins published its “2013 Review of Physician and Advanced Practitioner Recruiting,” an annual report on salaries and other financial incentives offered to doctors by its clients. The 2013 analysis included 3,097 search assignments for permanent physicians and advanced practitioners between April 1, 2012, and March 31, 2013.

Radiology, which was perched at No. 1 in the top 20 list as the most requested specialty in 2001, 2002 and 2003, failed to make the cut this year after placing 18th last year. Cardiology maintained its position as the 15th most requested specialty.

Primary care physicians remained the charmed specialty, being the most sought after group for seven years in a row.  

Cardiology’s fiscal picture was mixed in analyses on salary and income. The average income for invasive cardiologists slid from $512,000 in 2011-12 to $461,000 in 2012-13. Pay perked up for noninvasive cardiologists, growing from an average of $396,000 in 2011-12 to $447,000.

New recruits for invasive and noninvasive cardiology appeared to draw less pay in the 2012-13 period compared with previous years. In invasive cardiology, the low end in 2012-13 averaged $300,000, a drop of $100,000 compared with 2011-12 ($400,000). It was smaller than 2010-11 ($380,000) and 2009-10 ($325,000), too. In noninvasive cardiology, the decrease at the low end of the pay scale was less dramatic, dropping to $250,000 in 2012-13 from $275,000 in 2011-10.

Merritt Hawkins defined income as base salary or guaranteed income and did not include production bonuses or benefits in the totals.

Invasive cardiologists experienced a 10 percent year-over-year decline in average salary, which shrunk from $512,000 in 2012 to $461,000 in 2013. Noninvasive cardiology, on the other hand, posted one of the largest year-over-year gains for a specialty, with salary jumping 17 percent, from $396,000 in 2012 to $461,000 in 2013.

Analysts cited reimbursement cuts as one reason for the retreat in invasive cardiologists’ earnings. It “may be more of a temporary market correction than a long-term trend,” they suggested.

The report highlighted other trends, including a continued shift toward physician employment. In the most recent analysis, 64 percent of search assignments called for hospital employment compared with just 11 percent in 2004.