Why It Matters
You can use whichever data set best describes your situation. The MGMA has historically shown higher hospitalist salaries and higher workloads than the SHM data. But because the SHM data is the result of a survey customized for hospitalists and less likely than the MGMA data to be contaminated by non-hospital-related visits, the SHM data probably gives a more accurate picture.
Because the MGMA survey has been conducted for many years (far longer than the SHM survey) it has appropriately become one of the most authoritative sources of data on physician compensation for all specialties. Stark II regulations require hospitals to ensure they aren’t paying physicians above the fair market compensation (which could be seen as an inducement to refer patients to the hospital, among other concerns). And it specifically states that the MGMA survey is one of several approved sources of determining what fair market compensation is.
Even though the SHM data is most likely more representative and provides an important benchmark for hospitalists, the MGMA data has “pre-approved” status and thus is potentially safer to use for the specific purpose of determinations of fair market value.
With each iteration, the SHM survey will be adjusted to more specifically capture hospitalist activity; in many cases it is the best data for hospitalists to use in planning and benchmarking. But the MGMA data are still valuable and may be the most appropriate to refer to in contracts.
Note to readers: In May, SHM contacted MGMA regarding their concerns that MGMA survey data was not representative of hospitalists. MGMA responded with a willingness to discuss these issues with SHM. As this story goes to press, SHM and MGMA continue to have a dialogue about maximizing the accuracy of survey data. TH
Dr. Nelson has been a practicing hospitalist since 1988 and is a co-founder and past-president of SHM. He is a principal in Nelson/Flores Associates, a national hospitalist practice management consulting firm. This column represents his views and is not intended to reflect an official position of SHM.