Primary care sets income pace in academic practices

Pushed by shifting market priorities, primary care physicians lead all specialties in academic practice in income increases from 1995 to 1996, reports the Englewood, CO-based Medical Group Management Association (MGMA).

Total compensation for primary care physicians as a group rose an average 5.45% from 1995 to 1996. In comparison, overall income for specialists in academic practices only increased 3.34%.

Family physicians are the biggest income winners among all primary care doctors, with an 8.93% hike in reported compensation. For the five-year period 1992 to 1996, the overall income of family practitioners increased an average 26.31%, says MGMA.

One reason for the edge in income among family practice providers is their importance to academic medical centers in developing primary care networks necessary to feed tertiary services and gain vital HMO contracts, argues Leigh Emery, director of operations and finance at the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care & Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester.

In turn, market pressure to make base primary care pay packages more competitive with other internal medical specialists is driving these recent compensation increases, according to MGMA.

MGMA says total compensation for primary care physicians still lags behind specialists’ income.

Even with these reported increases, primary care practitioners make about three-quarters of what specialists are paid, earning some $110,718, compared to $150,000 for specialists in academic practice.