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Doctors' pay still growing, but slower than before

New metric provides a better picture of physician earnings

OTTAWA, Jan. 22, 2013 /CNW/ - Payments to physicians in Canada for clinical services exceeded $20 billion in 2010-2011, according to a new report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI).

CIHI reports that payments for these services grew by 6% in 2010-2011, less than the growth seen in 2008-2009 (9.7%) and 2009-2010 (7.9%).

Spending on physicians remains the third-largest source of health care spending, behind hospitals and drugs.

For the first time, this year's annual report on physician compensation, National Physician Database, 2010-2011, presents the average gross clinical payment per physician, including fee-for-service payments and alternative payments (including salaries, contracts, payments per hour and payments based on the number of patients in a physician's practice). This provides a more comprehensive picture of how much doctors are paid. Previously, CIHI's average payment indicators were based on fee-for-service payments only.

"The new metric provides a much clearer picture of physician compensation in Canada," says CIHI's Jean-Marie Berthelot, Vice President, Programs. "This information will support governments and physicians in discussions about compensation."

The average gross clinical payment in 2010-2011 was more than $307,000 per physician. At 3.1%, this was the smallest increase in the last five years.

At the provincial level, average earnings ranged from lows of $236,000 in Prince Edward Island and $250,000 in Nova Scotia to highs of $340,000 in Ontario and $350,000 in Alberta. The averages were not adjusted to account for provincial variations in the number of part-time physicians, locums or visiting specialists.

Average cost per service increasing modestly

Canadian physicians across the country delivered more than 245 million services—ranging from annual physicals and diagnostic tests to surgical procedures—that were paid for through fee-for-service billings. While nearly three-quarters of the services provided by physicians were for consultations and visits, these services accounted for only about two-thirds of total clinical payments.

The average fee-for-service payment was $54 (5.3% increase over last year). This was a smaller increase than the previous two annual increases (7.1% in 2009-2010 and 6.8% in 2008-2009). Family physicians billed an average of $40 (3.6% increase), while specialists billed $74 (6.8% increase) per service.

The National Physician Database (NPDB) contains billing information and alternative payments from medical care plans across the country. It has detailed, comparable information on physician billings and services by province and specialty. A companion report to National Physician Database, 2010-2011 was released in November; Supply, Distribution and Migration of Canadian Physicians, 2011 has the latest data on physician demographics in Canada. Please see the media release Physician supply still growing faster than Canadian population.

SOURCE Canadian Institute for Health Information

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