The Salary Ranges of Executive Hospital Physicians

by Beth Greenwood

Medical directors have always been the liaison between medical staff and hospital management, but today’s medical directors are more likely to add service line management and financial goals to their responsibilities, according to an April 18, 2012 article in “Becker’s Hospital Review.” Compensation varies according to factors such as the type of hospital, hours, additional education, the physician’s specialty and bonus pay.

Specialty and Pay

Some organizations have multiple medical directors who manage a particular department or group of departments, or who have joint responsibility for the entire organization. In some cases, the medical director’s specialty determines pay, especially if the medical director is part-time. Cardiologists earned a median annual salary of $422,291 in 2012, according to an April 30, 2012 article in “Becker’s Hospital Review.” Cardiology medical directors earned $99,887 for an average of 553 hours of work in 2012. Orthopedic surgeons, however, who earned $501,808 annually in 2012, made $89,476 for an average of 461 hours of work as a medical director.

Informatics is a New World

Some medical director positions could be filled by a physician in any specialty. Informatics, for example, is a relatively new career in medicine, which combines clinical knowledge with information management and technology. A medical director of informatics might be a surgeon, internist, family physician, pediatrician or emergency medicine specialist. These broad-based positions often have a range of salaries. “Becker’s Hospital Review” reported the average annual compensation for physicians who worked as medical directors in informatics or information services in 2011 was $125,667 for 891 hours of work.

Variations by Work Setting

Hospital medical directors may earn more or less than their counterparts in similar positions outside of the hospital environment, according to a May 2011 article in “Health Leaders Media.” Psychiatrists in a hospital-owned practice earned an additional $25,000 annually, compared to colleagues in similar positions in private practice who earned approximately $100,000 annually. Family practice medical directors who included obstetrics in their practice did better, however, earning approximately twice as much at $25,000 than their private practice colleagues.

Senior Executives

Physician executives -- another term for medical directors in some organizations -- earned an annual median salary of $325,000 in 2012, according to an October article published by Cejka Search, a nationwide physician recruiting firm. Approximately 47 percent of those surveyed devoted all of their time to their medical director duties. Physicians in this group reported a median salary of $367,500. Physicians with an MBA earned 10 percent more annually than those without an additional degree. Bonus pay also could affect a physician executive’s compensation, according to “Health Leaders Media,” which reported one-third of medical directors were eligible for bonus pay ranging from 10 to 30 percent of base salary.

Outlook is Mixed

Although the overall job outlook for physicians and surgeons is positive, the outlook for medical directors is mixed. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports demand for physicians and surgeons is expected to grow 24 percent through 2020. “Becker’s Hospital Review” notes that demand for medical directors has increased, although demand is dependent on specialty in some cases, with areas such as stroke and vascular lab medical directorships in higher demand. An October 2010 article in “USA Today” reports strong demand for physician executives who can manage large medical groups.

About the Author

Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.

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