News, Analysis, Trends, Management Innovations for
Clinical Laboratories and Pathology Groups

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News, Analysis, Trends, Management Innovations for
Clinical Laboratories and Pathology Groups

Hosted by Robert Michel
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Medscape Report on Physician Salaries in 2020 Shows Pathologists at Middle in Pay, but Near Top in Job Satisfaction

Though pathology salaries rank 16th among 29 medical specialties, it is in the top 10 among specialties that attract women and respondents say that comes with a lot of paperwork

Despite “hardships” brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, 18,000 physicians in more than 29 medical specialties who participated in Medscape’s 2021 Physician Compensation Report said that, overall, their 2020 income was similar to prior years. Pathologists reported earnings in 2020 of $316,000, $28,000 below the average specialist’s salary of $344,000.

The average pathologist’s salary ranked 16th among medical specialty salaries.

Compared to 2019, medical specialists on average made $2,000 less in 2020. The average salary for primary care doctors was $242,000 in 2020, down $1,000 from 2019, according to a Medscape news release.

“Physicians experienced a challenging year on numerous fronts, including weathering the volatile financial impact of lockdowns,” said Leslie Kane, Senior Director, Medscape Business of Medicine, in the news release. “Our report shows that many were able to pivot to use telemedicine and focus on tactics that would protect their practices.”

Medscape, a health information provider that is part of the WebMD network, said that in addition to telehealth, doctors turned to MACRA (Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015) value-based payment reward programs and other strategies to minimize the effects of office closures last year.

“COVID took a terrible emotional toll on physicians and healthcare workers, and many are still struggling financially, but our findings showed that physicians will innovate and change quickly to meet the needs of patients through extremely difficult times,” said Leslie Kane (above), Senior Director, Medscape’s Business of Medicine, in the news release. Pathologists who were at the center of the nation’s COVID-19 pandemic response would likely echo her sentiments. (Photo copyright: Medscape.)

Pathology Salary Unchanged

To complete its study, Medscape asked physicians to take a 10-minute online survey. The reported findings included responses from 17,903 physicians (61% male, 36% female) practicing in more than 29 specialties between October 2020 and February 2021.

Pathologists who participated in the survey reported no change in their annual salary since 2019. Other specialties that reported no salary change include:

  • Family medicine,
  • Infectious diseases,
  • Ophthalmology, and
  • Orthopedics/orthopedic surgery.

Top 10 Medical Specialty Salaries

Medscape’s report listed these top-10 medical specialties as earning the highest salaries (see the graphic below for the full list of medical specialties surveyed):

Specialist Salary Increases and Decreases

Contrary to what many specialists reported, plastic surgeons did not experience slowdowns in appointments during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, not only did plastic surgeons earn the most, at 10% they are the medical specialists who got the biggest increase in pay of previous years as well.

According to the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS), which conducted its own salary survey of its member surgeons, “70% of AAFPRS surgeons report an increase in bookings and treatments over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, with nine in 10 facial plastic surgeons indicating an increase of more than 10%. Surgical procedures are the most common procedures as part of this upsurge, perhaps cancelling out any decreases that might have resulted from the economic crisis and lockdowns.”

Other specialist salaries which Medscape found increased in 2020 include:

  • Oncology: up 7%
  • Rheumatology and cardiology: up 5%
  • Diabetes/endocrinology: up 4%
  • Neurology, critical care, psychiatry: up 3%
  • General surgery, urology, public health/preventive medicine: up 2%

Medical specialties that reported reductions in salary included:

  • Otolaryngology and allergy/immunology: down 9%
  • Pediatrics and anesthesiology: down 5%
  • Dermatology: down 4%
  • Pulmonary medicine, physical medicine, gastroenterology, and radiology: down 3%
  • Emergency medicine and internal medicine: down 1%

About 92% of physicians surveyed indicated that the COVID-19 pandemic caused their income to decline. Also, 22% of doctors noted they experienced loss of work hours.

Pathologists Received Low Average Bonuses

Reporting on receipt of incentive bonuses, Medscape ranked pathology in the bottom half of its list with $42,000 as an average bonus. The top incentive bonuses went to those practicing:

  • Orthopedics/orthopedics surgery: $116,000
  • Ophthalmology: $87,000
  • Otolaryngology: $72,000

About 59% of primary care physicians and 55% of specialists surveyed reported receiving an incentive bonus.

Pathologists Rank High in Job Satisfaction

In responding to a question about compensation, pathologists ranked near the top (seventh position) with 64% saying they are content with their pay. Others expressing salary satisfaction included:

  • Oncology: 79%
  • Psychiatry: 69%
  • Plastic surgery: 68%
  • Dermatology: 67%
  • Public health/preventive medicine: 66%
  • Radiology: 65%
  • Pathology: 64%

Pathology Popular Among Women MDs

Medscape found that women MDs chose certain medical specialties more often than others, including pathology, which ranked eighth. The top eight specialties employing female physicians are:

  • Pediatrics: 61%
  • Obstetrics/gynecology: 59%
  • Diabetes/endocrinology: 50%
  • Family medicine: 47%
  • Dermatology: 46%
  • Infectious diseases: 46%
  • Internal medicine: 44%
  • Pathology: 43%

Specialties with the fewest female physicians are:

  • Plastic and general surgery: 20%
  • Cardiology: 14%
  • Urology: 11%
  • Orthopedics/orthopedics surgery: 9%

Pathology a Leader in Paperwork

Medscape also surveyed physicians as to the estimated hours they spend per week on paperwork and administration. Here, pathology ranked the fifth highest with 19%, while radiologists and hospital-based physicians were third from the bottom with 11.6%.

Specialists that reported the highest hours spent on paperwork include:

  • Infectious diseases: 24%
  • Public health/preventive medicine: 20.7%
  • Nephrology: 19.8%
  • Internal medicine: 19.7%
  • Pathology: 19%

If They Could Do It Again, Most Would

Amid a trying year, the Medscape survey respondents made an encouraging point: 78% of them said they would choose medicine as a career again. And 85% of pathologists said they would choose the same specialty.

Medscape’s report may be helpful to hospital-based clinical laboratory leaders preparing salary budgets and to pathologists in salary negotiations and determining professional responsibilities.

—Donna Marie Pocius

Related Information:

Medscape Physician Compensation Report: The Recovery Begins 2021

Medscape Physician Compensation Report Shows Salaries Held Steady Despite Pandemic

A Pandemic of Dysmorphia: “Zooming” into the Perception of Our Appearance

AAFPRS Announces annual Survey Results, A Look at How COVID-19 Disrupted Facial Plastic Surgery

Next-Generation Laboratory Information Management Systems Will Deliver Medical Laboratory Test Results and Patient Data to Point of Care, Improving Outcomes, Efficiency, and Revenue

Moving to market are the newest generation of LIMS products designed to serve clinical laboratories while supporting quality reporting initiatives and new sources of revenue

It was Bob Dylan who made a big hit out of the song, “The Times, They Are A-Changin’.” The same could be said for the next generation of software products designed for use by medical laboratories.

To be fully successful, these next-generation laboratory information management systems (LIMS) must be radically different than the generations that came before. For example, medical laboratories are frustrated with the many limitations of older LIS products that still incorporate software technologies that date back to the 1980s and 1990s, such as MUMPS, which stands for Massachusetts General Hospital Utility Multi-Programming System.

But the newest LIMS products must do more than simply incorporate the latest technologies in software and cloud-based services. They must support all the ways that clinical laboratories and anatomic pathology groups generate increased revenue. More specifically, all medical laboratories will be generating vast quantities of molecular and genetic data. Therefore, an effective LIMS must be capable of capturing that data while also enabling the lab to perform certain healthcare big data analyses in support of the referring physicians and parent hospitals.

There also will be the need for medical laboratories to use their LIMS capabilities to support the data reporting requirements of Medicare and private health insurers. Payers increasingly want providers to report their quality monitoring, patient outcomes, and certain cost-of-care parameters. All these are functions that older LIS (laboratory information systems) products were not developed to provide.

Anatomic pathology group stakeholders and clinical laboratory managers understand the vital importance of their LIMS. Laboratory and healthcare workflows depend on the system’s:

  • efficiency;
  • scalability that supports the growth of the lab and medical practice; and,
  • flexibility to interface with modern, point-of-care telehealth technologies in ways that enable labs and practices to engage in today’s precision medicine healthcare initiatives.

The more immediate need is for a LIMS to be capable of supporting Medicare’s Quality Payment Programs (QPPs), primarily the MACRA Merit-based Incentive Payments System (MIPS). Most physicians, including pathologists, will participate in MIPS. The first Medicare incentives or penalties will be paid next year, based on 2018 metrics and performance.

Given all these changing demands of advanced software technologies and the need for medical laboratories to participate in various value-based revenue programs, how might a LIMS empower labs to ensure success and increased revenue?

Quality Payment Programs and Merit-based Incentives

As part of the shift toward value-based care, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) works to drive down costs and increase quality within both care and laboratory environments. MACRA establishes a data-driven payment system to reimburse service providers based on the outcome of services and care episodes, instead of the volume of services delivered or billed.

Combined with reduced payments, MACRA’s incentives and penalties, and Medicare’s QPP/MIPS payment programs, pressure has been increased on healthcare providers and medical laboratories alike. Thus, technology that gives labs a competitive edge is essential for thriving in an ever-evolving and increasingly competitive marketplace.

Meeting MACRA Goals with a Laboratory Information Management System

While electronic health record (EHR) systems have helped to consolidate patient protected health information (PHI), they do little to address the real-time creation of laboratory data and the accessibility of the massive volume of lab-related data stored in the average patient’s medical files.

A LIMS, however, helps to consolidate all this data in an easily accessible and powerful system. Some LIMS even combine with telehealth technologies to make data actionable and available at the point-of-care.

In this type of LIMS, laboratories, physicians, and other care providers all access the same dataset to ensure information is relayed quickly and efficiently. Interaction takes place using cloud-based interfaces, such as mobile apps or web portals. This ensures access to patient data and laboratory test results in a variety of locations without dependence on proprietary communications systems or hardware.

From bustling ERs and surgical wards to phlebotomists visiting long-term care facilities and mobile clinics, collecting and retrieving data becomes streamlined and accessible virtually anywhere.

The chart above illustrates how a LIMS offers increased potential to automate processes and scale operations while keeping physicians, patients, and other critical parties up to date. This increase in efficiency and access to data empowers providers to reach improved patient outcomes and reduce hospital readmission rates, increasing revenue for both clinicians and clinical laboratories. (Graphic copyright: NetLIMS.)

When implemented properly, a LIMS also helps laboratories and healthcare facilities meet the terms of MIPS. This reduces Medicare penalties and ensures payment adjustments, which improve revenue streams even further.

Understanding LIMS and Cloud-Based Lab Systems

To help outline and explain the benefits of a LIMS for laboratories and healthcare facilities, The Dark Report, in conjunction with NetLIMS, a global provider of laboratory information management systems to hundreds of hospitals and commercial laboratories worldwide, has produced a free white paper titled, “The Path to More Revenue: Cloud-Based LIMS, Mobile Apps, and Point-of-Care Telehealth.”

  • This white paper addresses critical concerns, including:
  • Overviews of new technologies;
  • The impact of value-based programs on the lab market;
  • The importance of MACRA and MIPS adherence;
  • How technology, such as a LIMS, can help labs achieve improved efficiency; and,
  • Tips on choosing a LIMS vendor to maximize ROI.

To download your free copy of the whitepaper click on this link:  Or, copy this URL into your browser: .

Thanks to advances in LIMS design and development, remote patient digital therapeutics, and cloud-based technology, healthcare providers now have unprecedented opportunities to better manage the health of patients with chronic conditions. In addition, it can help you achieve better efficiency, economics, and compliance with MACRA.

This free white paper is your first step toward significantly reducing hospital readmission rates, bridging the gap between labs, physicians, and other healthcare providers they serve, and positively affecting patient outcomes, improving quality measures, and maximizing reimbursements for all services you provide.

—Jon Stone

Related Information:

The Path to More Revenue: Cloud-Based LIMS, Mobile Apps, and Point-of-Care Telehealth

How Close Is the End of Private Practice Pathology as We’ve Known It?

Attention Anatomic Pathologists: Do You Know Medicare Is Prepared to Change How You Are Paid, Beginning on January 1, 2017?

Innovator Hospitals Bring ICUs into the Info Age, Using New Design Approaches that involve Medical Laboratory Tests


How Close Is the End of Private Practice Pathology as We’ve Known It?

Payers are cutting reimbursements for anatomic pathology services, making it essential for every pathology group to understand its financial present and future

Certain pathology business leaders are warning their colleagues that the era of private pathology group practice domination of the anatomic pathology marketplace is about to end. The only question is how rapidly the clinical and financial foundations of smaller pathology group practices erodes to the point where these groups are unable to generate adequate reimbursement to sustain the practice and the incomes of the individual pathologists.

However, along with this bad news comes a note of optimism. There is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the anatomic pathology profession to take ownership of genetic testing and precision medicine—the most important diagnostic technologies to emerge in the past 100 years. The danger for anatomic pathologists is how to successfully transition from the private group practice model to the new clinical practice models that deliver genetic testing and precision medicine services.

Why Pathologists Are Making Less Money Today

The economic plight of private practice pathology is familiar to all pathologists. During the past decade, reimbursement for technical component (TC) and professional component (PC) services was regularly beat down by payers. For example, pathologists lost the TC grandfather clause in 2012, which immediately caused many histology labs to go from profit to loss. (See Dark Daily, “In Fixing Physician Medicare Pay, Congress Enacts Yet Another Cut in Clinical Laboratory Test Fee Schedule,” February 12, 2012.)

Similarly, over the past 10 years, each time private health insurers negotiated the renewal of a managed care contract with a pathology group practice, they aggressively cut the prices they paid for anatomic pathology services. And the corresponding explosive growth of narrow provider networks exacerbated the financial erosion from lower prices. Many smaller pathology groups found themselves excluded from these networks, causing them to lose access to the large numbers of private-pay patients served by these networks.

“It is important for every surgical pathologist and every pathology practice administrator to recognize that they have the ability to negotiate much more favorable terms and increased network access with health insurers, but only if they come to the negotiating table with the right information and techniques,” observed Robert L. Michel, Editor-in-Chief of Dark Daily and The Dark Report. “Pathology groups showing strong financial performance today know these techniques and strategies. When negotiating managed care contracts, they achieve higher reimbursements, more favorable terms, and in-network status.”

Proven Ways to Help Pathology Groups Protect and Increase Revenue

Pathologists who would like to protect their groups’ revenue and bolster their partners’ income have the opportunity to learn and master the most effective managed care contracting techniques and strategies. Three nationally prominent experts in pathology business and operations are participating in a special webinar, titled “How Payers Are Repricing Anatomic Pathology: Your Financial Present and Your Pathology Group’s Future,” which takes place on Thursday, September 28, 2017 at 2:00 p.m. EDT.

Pictured above left to right are Mick Raich, President and CEO, Vachette Pathology; Jeffrey Pearson, MD, System Medical Director, Bronson Hospital Laboratories; and, Christopher Jahnle, co-founder and Managing Director, Haverford Healthcare Advisors. The three distinguished speakers will share expertise and experiences you can use to protect your pathology group’s revenue while preserving partner income. (Photo copyright: Dark Daily.)

First to speak on this webinar is Mick Raich, founder and CEO of Vachette Pathology, of Blissfield, Mich. He will discuss how Medicare and private insurers are using new pathology and lab repricing models to slash reimbursement and control utilization of expense pathology testing services. Raich will explain why payers are engaging such third-party companies as AIM Specialty Health of Chicago, Avalon Healthcare Solutions of Tampa, Fla., BeaconLBS of Montvale, N.J., and InformedDNA of St. Petersburg, Fla., to develop coverage guidelines, issue preauthorization, and manage the network of labs and pathology groups allowed to provide services.

Raich will further explain what pathologists must know about the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) physician payment program, with its MIPS—Merit-based Incentive Payment System—that is designed to pay bonuses or assess penalties each year, depending on how individual physicians perform against their own operational and clinical benchmarks.

Insidious Methods Payers Use to ‘Take Back’ by Underpaying Certain Pathology Claims

Another topic that Raich will address can mean significantly greater collected revenue for your pathology group. He will explain the new phenomenon of how private payers are auditing error rates on claims, then taking back those overpayments by underpaying the labs or pathology groups on claims for specific CPT codes (current procedural terminology codes). Raich will show how your billing/collection team can detect these claims and recover full payment from the payers.

How One Pathology Group Practice Doubled in Size

The second important financial topic of the webinar involves the merger, acquisition, and consolidation of private pathology group practices. You’ll learn why many group practices are losing their independence due to declining revenue or because their parent hospital was acquired by a health system. Pathologist Jeffrey Pearson, MD, is the System Medical Director at Bronson Hospital Laboratories in Kalamazoo, Mich. He is also a partner and President of Pathology Services of Kalamazoo, PC.

During his tenure at Bronson, Pearson helped facilitate the acquisition and assimilation of two hospital laboratories and one for-profit laboratory. His pathology practice has doubled in size and developed a high degree of subspecialization. Each time, the pathology group associated with the acquired entity had to be integrated with his health system’s existing pathology group practice. Experiences will be shared regarding:

·       How to assimilate acquired laboratories;

·       Practice utilization management; and

·       Leveraging success to grow the practice and obtain favorable part A contracts.

Understanding How to Increase the Value of Your Anatomic Pathology Group

To round out the financial techniques and strategies you and your pathology practice administrator can use to protect your group’s revenue and boost partner income, the webinar’s third expert will discuss the latest developments in pathology practice mergers, acquisitions, and consolidations.

Christopher Jahnle is co-founder and Managing Director of Haverford Healthcare Advisors in Paoli, Penn., a suburb of Philadelphia. Over the past decade, his firm has represented Aurora Diagnostics of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., as a purchaser of private pathology group practices.

Jahnle will describe the specific characteristics of a private pathology practice that have the highest value to buyers in today’s marketplace. You’ll understand how your pathology group’s unique mix of managed care contracts, hospital/health system relationships, and sub-specialist expertise will be valued by a potential acquirer or merger partner.

Jahnle will share case study examples to help you identify useful things your pathology group can do to make it more profitable and increase its value. This is essential knowledge if your group’s pathologists are considering such strategies as:

·       “Should we merge with a bigger pathology group?”

·       “Should we sell our pathology group?” and

·       “Should we add subspecialists and pursue more hospital contracts?”

All three expert speakers have practical knowledge that you can use to protect your pathology group’s revenue while preserving partner income. It is why this webinar is timely and a “must attend” for you, your pathology practice administrator, and your pathology group’s legal and financial consultants.

Full details about this important webinar are at this link (or copy and paste this URL into your browser:

—Michael McBride, Managing Editor

Related Information:

How Payers Are Repricing Anatomic Pathology: Your Financial Present and Your Pathology Group’s Future

In Fixing Physician Medicare Pay, Congress Enacts Yet Another Cut in Clinical Laboratory Test Fee Schedule


Tough Times Ahead for Anatomic Pathology as Group Revenue Declines and Pathologists’ Incomes Drop Due to Payer Price Cuts, Narrow Networks, and Claims Denials

Many pathology groups report shrinking revenue, yet some innovative pathology groups continue to grow through savvy pricing and by adding value to payers and physicians

Times are tough for anatomic pathologists in private practice. Medicare programs and private payers regularly slash prices for both technical component and professional component services. In addition, the growing number of narrow networks means that pathology groups find themselves excluded from access to an ever-larger proportion of patients.

This is not news for the typical anatomic pathologist working in a private practice setting, who today may be making substantially less personal income than just a few years ago. Over the past decade, pathologists have seen multiple assaults to their revenue by client physicians, health insurers, and consumers. (more…)

MACRA and Other Healthcare Reforms Cause Nearly Half of Physicians Surveyed to ‘Accelerate’ their Retirement Plans

Many pathologists and other physicians are accelerating their retirement plans as they become familiar with how MACRA, MIPS, and ADM will change the way the Medicare Program pays for physician professional services

Will Medicare’s make-over to how it pays physicians accelerate the retirement of more doctors—including pathologists? That’s the question many experts are asking as the nation’s physicians learn more about the rule to implement the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA), with its Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) and Advanced Alternative Payment Model (APM) programs.

With the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) expected this fall to finalize changes in how physicians—including pathologists—get paid for Medicare services, it appears many physicians are considering retirement, rather than contend with Quality Payment Program (QPP) rules for a new value-based reimbursement system and other healthcare reforms.

The Physicians Foundation’s latest biennial survey, “2016 Survey of America’s Physicians: Practice Patterns and Perspectives,” indicated that 46.8% of physicians plan to “accelerate” their retirement plans due to changes taking place in healthcare. That number rises to 50% among doctors age 46 and older, and to 54.2% among physicians who own their own practices. (more…)