Ever wonder how your hospitalist group’s compensation stacks up? Whether you’re a practicing hospitalist curious about how competitive your compensation package is or a hospital medicine group leader performing an appraisal of your group’s salary structure, chances are you’re looking to fair market benchmarks for hospitalist compensation. In the 2018 State of Hospital Medicine (SoHM) report, the Society of Hospital Medicine partners with the Medical Group Management Association to provide data on hospitalist compensation and productivity.
In 2018, the median compensation for adult hospitalist respondents was $289,151, an increase of over $10,000 from 2016. When comparing compensation across different regions, there appear to be remarkable differences across the nation. Not surprisingly, hospitalists in the South fare better than their colleagues in the East, with a reported median compensation difference of nearly $33,000. Does that make you want to move to Texas? What about the even more striking difference between adult hospitalists and pediatric hospitalists, whose median compensation was reported to be $205,342 in 2018?
A common pitfall in compensation analysis is comparing wages across regions and specialties without considering productivity. Reviewing compensation per work relative value units (wRVU) and compensation per encounter offer additional insight for a more comprehensive assessment of compensation.
A regional comparison of compensation per wRVU reveals that hospitalists in the West earn more per wRVU than their colleagues in other parts of the country, including the South. Specifically, compensation per wRVU in the West is $86.57; in the South, $59.38; in the East, $65.74; and in the Midwest, $73.08. A similar comparison of compensation per wRVU (see Figure 1) suggests that academic adult, academic pediatric, and nonacademic adult hospitalists are fairly evenly compensated when considering productivity, but nonacademic pediatric hospitalist respondents earned significantly more per wRVU. From this perspective, pediatric hospitalists appear to be similarly compensated, if not better, than their adult hospitalist colleagues.
While differences in compensation per wRVU may be minimal between nonacademic and academic hospitalists, there remains a significant difference in total compensation. Median compensation for nonacademic internal medicine hospitalists was approximately $63,000 more than that reported for academic internal medicine hospitalists. This doesn’t come as a surprise since compensation tends to be lower in academic settings across all specialties. It could be valuable for future compensation and productivity assessments to define and measure academic and other forms of nonbillable hospitalist productivity. Development of national standards for nonbillable productivity units could help create a more comprehensive model for structuring hospitalist compensation.
While it’s important to understand compensation benchmarks in order to remain competitive as an hospital medicine group, money isn’t everything. Group culture, professional development and growth opportunities, and schedules that afford better work-life integration are important factors that contribute to hospitalist “compensation” valuations. Arguably these factors are more valuable than any compensation package, but it’s not easy to quantify their weight. Some indirect forms of compensation include paid time off, paid sick days, and support for professional development through allowances and protected time off for CME. Other indirect compensation includes tuition benefits for hospitalists and their family, retirement benefits programs, and the unicorn of benefits – pension plans. In the 2018 SoHM survey, the median employer contribution to retirement plans was reported to be $19,875, with respondents in the Midwest receiving the highest retirement benefit of $28,340.
The good news is that hospitalist physician compensation has continued to rise, compared with previous years (see Figure 2), despite the relative flat trends in wRVUs and encounters. Among other reasons, this may reflect a shift from compensating hospitalists for volume towards compensation for their value.
The not-so-good news? In contrast to prior SoHM Surveys reporting compensation differences that increased at a rate of 8%-10% every 2 years, the difference in median compensation between 2016 and 2018 was 3.7%. Several factors could play into the slower acceleration rate, including differences in respondent groups between 2016 and 2018. It will be more intriguing to know whether we’re starting to see hospitalist compensation leveling off.
As the 2020 SoHM surveying period just concluded, it remains to be seen how compensation has changed in the past 2 years and whether hospitalist compensation is starting to plateau. Stay tuned for the 2020 SoHM Report available later this year, which will offer invaluable insights into hospitalist compensation trends. You can sign up to be notified when it becomes available at www.hospitalmedicine.org/SoHM.
Dr. Kurian is chief of the academic division of hospital medicine at Northwell Health in New York. She is a member of the SHM Practice Analysis Committee.