IDSA Survey Suggests ID Physician Compensation Doesn’t Match Their Value

Infectious diseases (ID) specialists play a vital role in many areas of healthcare but their compensation ranks towards the bottom compared to other physicians. A new survey commissioned by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) breaks down compensation by area of focus – from patient care to research to public health. The results underscore the importance of improving compensation to ensure an adequate number of ID specialists, which the healthcare system relies on to help manage and prevent the spread of virulent infectious diseases.

For example, one review of inpatient Medicare claims data showed that patients seen by ID consultants had lower mortality rates and were less likely to be readmitted when compared to matched controls. This enviable combination of better outcomes for lower costs is often considered the very definition of “value” in health care.

Infectious diseases such as pneumonia, diarrheal disease and tuberculosis are among the top killers worldwide. ID specialists lead the way in managing those and other infectious diseases (from HIV to hepatitis C), as well as antimicrobial resistance, outbreaks, vaccines, disease prevention and infection control. They are on the front lines of public health.

Median compensation for ID experts overall is $215,000 a year, according to the 2017 survey of 2,504 respondents who are members of IDSA. ID physician compensation ranks toward the bottom compared to other physicians and is less than half of what some specialists earn, according to other surveys. Regarding primary responsibility, 65 percent of respondents said patient care, 20 percent said research and 4 percent said public health.

“ID specialists provide essential care and expertise to patients and behind the scenes and it’s important to understand the significant value they bring to healthcare as well as how they are compensated based on those roles,” said Christopher D. Busky, CAE, chief executive officer for the IDSA. “Unfortunately, as ID specialists retire, new physicians are not coming into the field at the same rate because of the financial challenges, particularly in areas such as public health. Compensation needs to adequately reflect ID specialists’ value to ensure safe and effective care for patients.”

Other survey findings:
- Among the ID specialists whose primary responsibility is patient care, 25 percent are in private practice, 31 percent work for a hospital or clinic and 43 percent work for an academic medical center.
- 59 percent are male, 40 percent female
- 60 percent are white/Caucasian, 14 percent Asian, 8 percent Hispanic/Latino, 3 percent black/African-American
- The average age of respondents was 49 and they said they had been working in the ID field for 15 years

To ensure enough medical students continue to specialize in ID, the IDSA is advancing several initiatives including: providing mentorship and scholarship opportunities; ongoing advocacy efforts aimed at federal officials and third-party payers to improve ID compensation; and supporting research that assesses the value of ID expertise. For example, a recent study published in Open Forum on Infectious Diseases showed consultation with ID specialists reduces 30-day mortality rates for some drug-resistant pathogens by more than 50 percent.

Source:  Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA)