Sunday, July 26, 2020

Anesthesiologists Make Excellent Incomes, Until Coronavirus Happened

Normally when Medscape releases its annual Physician Compensation Survey, I can't wait to announce the results to all of you. Every year, the numbers just keep going up. Last year's survey, which encompasses survey results on income in 2018, showed anesthesiologists made $392,000. When the 2020 survey results were published back in April, the self reported compensation for anesthesiologists were even better, reaching $398,000.

Unfortunately, that data is now completely obsolete. Medscape conducted the survey prior to February 10. And we all know what happened after that. The coronavirus decimated much of the world economy and medicine was not spared. Over half of medical practices reported a decrease in their revenues and sixty percent said their patient volumes have softened. News of practices closing and staff laid off, some permanently, are widespread. 

At our own hospital, surgical volume dropped off a cliff in April and May during the worst of the first wave of the pandemic. We were running a bare bones operation as all elective surgeries were cancelled. Like the rest of the country, we were left on our own to figure out how to adequately test our patients for Covid, how to secure adequate supplies of PPE, and how to staff the operating rooms safely. Everybody in our group applied for the government's Paycheck Protection Program loan just to carry ourselves over during the worst of the crisis. 

Now the situation may have turned a corner. All those elective cases that were postponed have been put back on the operating schedule. We are facing a huge demand for OR time as old cases compete for new cases to get done. Overhanging all this activity is the threat that the government could shut down the economy at any time on a whim and Covid cases continue to increase in the aftermath of all those rioters and protesters. 

We won't get a complete picture of how the coronavirus has affected physician compensation until we've navigated all these lockdowns and feast or famine patient interactions. Medscape Physician Compensation 2021 will make for very illuminating reading.

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