Ophthalmologists performed relatively well in 2020 in terms of compensation, despite substantial changes in practice during the COVID-19 pandemic. Earnings were almost the same in 2020 as in 2019, according to the Ophthalmologist Compensation Report Medscape 2021.
Sixty-one percent of ophthalmologists reported experiencing a decrease in compensation during the year; 96% attributed the decline in revenue to the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, average annual income remained almost the same, at $ 378,000, up from $ 379,000 in 2019.
This striking consistency is reflected in changes in medical specialties in general: admissions did not vary much between 2019 and 2020, according to the survey of nearly 18,000 physicians in more than 29 specialties.
Among ophthalmologists who experienced financial or practice-related effects from the pandemic, 53% reported expecting to return to pre-COVID-19 income levels next year; 37% said they believe the revenue recovery can take 2 to 3 years.
“I think as the country starts to open up, we’ll see more patients come in, but we may still have issues with those patients who will delay their entry into the doctor’s office for a while,” said Ravi Goel, MD, senior secretary of ophthalmic practice at the American Academy of Ophthalmology, commenting on the report by Medscape Medical News.
It is important to note that “these delays in receiving care could end up affecting your quality of vision and quality of life,” he added.
Most physicians in general (83%) said they expect pre-COVID income levels to recover in a couple of years; 45% reported that they had not experienced any financial or practice-related damage resulting from the pandemic.
It should be noted that significant differences in earnings were reported according to the employment situation. Freelance ophthalmologists reported the highest annual earnings in 2020, averaging $ 395,000, compared to $ 361,000 among workers.
This gap is even bigger among doctors in general. The self-employed earned an average of $ 352,000, while for those who were employed, it was $ 300,000.
However, ophthalmologists ’views on the justice of their compensation are a little less optimistic. With only 55% feeling quite compensated, they rank fifth on the list of specialists, topped by oncologists (79%). Infectious disease specialists finally arrived, with 44%, feeling understandable during a pandemic.
Despite their views on compensation, however, ophthalmologists seem more enthusiastic about medicine, with 87% saying they would choose medicine again if chosen, only behind oncology (88%) at the helm. from this list.
An even higher percentage (94%) indicated that they would choose ophthalmology again if they were chosen, which is also at the top of the list of specialties, just behind dermatology, orthopedics and oncology (96% for all three).
“It’s encouraging to see these high numbers,” Goel commented. “I think it’s clear that medicine is still a call, and that data proves it,” he said.
Workload in context
When it comes to time spent on paperwork and administration, ophthalmologists seem to be on the best side of the spectrum. They report devoting an average of only 10.3 hours per week to medical work outside of patient visits, the second best of the specialties, above anesthesiology, which reported only 10.1 hours per week. In contrast, infectious disease specialties reported spending 24.2 hours a week on administrative tasks, perhaps not a surprise during the pandemic.
Overall, physicians reported working an average of 16.3 hours per week on tasks outside of patient visits.
The average number of weekly working hours in general remained the same for ophthalmologists: 46 hours in both 2019 and 2020.
Not surprisingly, specialists who reported increases in the average number of hours worked included intensivists, infectious disease physicians, and public health and preventive medicine physicians. They reported spending another 6 to 7 hours a week in 2020.
The average number of ophthalmologists he saw in the week decreased from 132 in 2019 to 117 in 2020, due to safety protocols related to COVID-19 and other factors, according to the report.
Although 36% of stand-alone ophthalmologists did not report a permanent reduction in patient volume, 55% said they had a permanent reduction from 1% to 25%.
Goel himself observed an increase in early retirement among ophthalmologists under the strain of the pandemic.
He added, however, that “despite the challenges, ophthalmology makes me more excited today than when I met 20 years ago.
“The profession continues to advance; there are new technologies and outpatient care, and artificial intelligence will revolutionize the practice for years to come,” he said.
“So I’m optimistic about the potential for ophthalmologists to continue to help protect our patients’ eyesight and help enhance their lives, ”Goel said.