PREDICTION on salary trends: Radiology
Radiology was an underpaid medical specialty in the early 1990s. Then came the redemption in the mid 90s. Number of imaging done in the hospital increased multi-fold. Hospitals and Doctors felt the pressure of legal actions against them. Defensive medicine became a trend. Lawyers grilled doctors in the courts for not ordering the appropriate ( or still the inappropriate!) imaging studies. So now we doctors order all scans known to mankind, at the drop of a hat. And since we need radiologists to read all these films, the salaries for radiologist increased. Also the revenue generated from the imaging studies became lucrative for the hospitals so they made salaries competitive, to retain or hire more radiologists. To add icing to the cake, the number of radiologists graduating out of residency decreased and caused a short supply (due to radiology residency slot cuts in the mid 1990s).
As a result of ignoring the Doctors’ plea for tort reforms, now our beloved government suddenly realizes that between 1999-2003, nuclear imaging studies are up by more than 80% and all other imaging rose by more than 40%.
Also medicare will no longer allow separate full payments for multiple scans ordered on the same day. The first procedure will be paid at 100% and all subsequent ones at 50% . Now that means a lot of revenue drop for radiology department.
So finally my prediction. Radiology salaries will start dropping or stagnating over the next ten years. And the reasons are:
1) Medicare cuts slated to become reality by the beginning of next decade.
2) Electronic data transfer enables radiologists to cover calls for multiple hospitals and not be onsite reducing radiology job openings.
3) Outsourcing of Radiology interpretations to other countries is already being done by some institutions.
Not everything is lost though. The factor that works in favor of radiologists is, that there will be a short supply of radiologists for decades to come. Many radiology residency programs went underwater for lack of academic radiologists available to staff the radiology residency program. Now not only we do not have enough radiologists, but we do not have enough radiologists to produce enough radiologists. Amen!