For the first time, primary care physicians (PCPs)–family physicians, general internists, and pediatricians—surpassed specialists in hospital revenue generated, according to a new survey by Merritt Hawkins. This may give PCPs a strong argument to be compensated more by hospitals.

Over the past decade, PCP’s generated revenues jumped 23%, whereas specialists’ declined 10%.

In 2012, PCPs generated a combined average of $1.57 million for their affiliated hospitals, compared to a combined $1.43 million across 15 specialties, according to more than 100 hospitals chief financial officers in the survey. In 2002, Merritt Hawkins reported that PCPs generated $1.27 million annually for affiliated hospitals, whereas specialists generated $1.59 million.

The trend was referred to as a “seismic shift” as healthcare systems shift from specialized medical care to primary care. As more PCPs become employed by hospitals and new delivery models, such as accountable care organizations (ACOs), they are more likely to pass along tests, therapies, and other services “in-house” to their hospital employer rather than outside resources.

ACOs also place a premium on lower-cost patient care, which is also likely to increase the revenue generated by primary care.

Although PCPs generate the most revenue for hospitals, they are still among the lowest paid specialties. According to the salaries recently released on the 2013 Physician Compensation Report by Medscape, internal medicine, family medicine, and pediatrics fell in the bottom 5 annual salaries.