Making A List and Checking It Twice

Goozner Allow me to call readers attention to an article in the latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine that calls on medical specialty societies to make lists of the five most wasteful practices in their sub-specialties and develop programs to educate their colleagues about how to cut back on these wasteful practices.

Howard Brody, who heads the Institute for Medical Humanities at the University of Texas Galveston Branch Medical School, points out that most stakeholders in health care reform — the drug companies, the insurance companies, the medical device companies, taxpayers, Medicare beneficiaries — have been asked to give up something to insure the uninsured. But physicians?

Although major professional organizations have endorsed various reform measures, no promises have been made in terms of cutting any future medical costs. Indeed, in some cases, physician support has been made contingent on promises that physicians’ income would not be negatively affected by reform.

It’s appropriate to question the ethics of this stance, he writes.

To honor Dr. Brody’s excellent suggestion, allow me to throw the following information into the mix, courtesy of the annual American Medical Group Association physician salary survey. What follows are the median (50 percent earn more, 50 percent earn less) salaries for the six highest-paying and six lowest-paying medical specialties in 2009:

Five Highest

Orthopedic surgeons —                         $580,711 to $641,728

Cardiac and thoracic surgeons —           $507,143

Radiologists —                                     $438,115 to $478,000

Radiation therapy —                             $413,518

Gynecological oncology —                    $406,000

Cardiology —                                       $398,034

Five Lowest

Family Medicine —                               $197,655

Pediatrics —                                        $202,832

Internal Medicine —                              $205,441

Psychiatry —                                       $208,462

Geriatrics —                                         $211,425

Hospitalists —                                      $211,835

(For the full list, click here.)

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