A recent Medscape compensation report, which surveyed almost 18,000 physician respondents across more than 29 specialties, indicated that despite 61% of ophthalmologists reporting some decline in compensation, average ophthalmologist income was about the same in 2020 at $379,000, as it was in 2019 at $378,000. Despite the hardships brought by COVID-19, this same data point tracked similarly across the other physician specialties in the survey.

The report did indicate several negatives for average ophthalmologist income, including:

  • 96% of ophthalmologists who a saw drop in income cited COVID-19-related issues like job loss, fewer hours worked, and fewer patients seen.
  • Ophthalmologists spent a little more time on average this year, 10.3 hours per week, versus 9.8 hours per week from the previous year, on medical-related work outside of patient visits, including time devoted to paperwork, EHR documentation, administrative and managerial work, participation in professional organizations, and clinical reading. However, this was still among the lowest amount of time spent among the specialties surveyed.
  • Ophthalmologists are seeing an average decline of about 11% in patient volume, with 117 patients per week compared with 132 patients per week in the previous survey year.
  • Of the self-employed ophthalmologists, 55% believe that a drop in patient volume of up to a quarter is permanent.
The report also noted several positives as it relates to ophthalmologist income, including:
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  • The average payment among ophthalmologists who received a bonus was 23% of total salary, which was the same percentage as the previous year. Ophthalmologists ranked second overall among all specialists surveyed with an average bonus of $87,000. Orthopedics ranked first at $116,000. Otolaryngology tied for third with urology at $72,000.
  • 66% of ophthalmologists who earned an incentive bonus achieved more than three-quarters of their potential annual payment, which was about the same as the previous year’s 65%.
  • Ophthalmologists achieved 72% of their potential bonus, which was similar to what physicians achieved overall on average.
  • A little more than half, 53%, of ophthalmologists who suffered financial- or practice-related ill effects due to the pandemic expect their income to return to normal this year.
  • Ophthalmologists averaged 46 work hours per week, which matched last year’s number.

Of note is that, on average, self-employed ophthalmologists bring in higher income at $395,000, than do employed ophthalmologists at $361,000. This self-employment disparity tracks across physicians overall, with average earnings of $352,000 for the self-employed versus $300,000 for the employed providers.