Despite remaining among the middle earners from over 29 physician specialties surveyed in the past several years, pulmonologists are among the medical specialists to see a notable decrease in earnings year-over-year, according to the Medscape Pulmonologist Compensation Report 2021. Pulmonologists averaged earnings of $333,000 in the most recent survey year versus $342,000 in the year prior. As with all other medical specialties, pulmonologists were financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The most recent Medscape report details some of this financial impact, including:

  • A large majority—93%—of pulmonologists who saw a drop in income cited COVID-19-related issues like job loss, a reduction in hours, and a reduction in patient volume.
  • Pulmonologists spent slightly more time on average this year, 16.7 hours per week, 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, compared with 15.6 hours per week from the previous year. By comparison, the overall average for all physicians is 16.3 hours per week on such tasks.
  • Among self-employed pulmonologists, 55% believe that a drop in patient volume of up to a quarter is going to be permanent.

The report also detailed some positives, including:

  • Just over one quarter, 26%, of pulmonologists who suffered financial or practice-related ill effects due to the pandemic expect their income to return to normal this year, with 53% expecting it to return to normal within the next 2-3 years.
  • Pulmonologists averaged 55 work hours per week, which was up only slightly from last year’s 54 work hours per week.
  • Pulmonologists are seeing slightly more patients per week on average this year at 74 versus the previous year (73). This contrasts to other medical specialists like pediatricians, dermatologists, orthopedists, and otolaryngologists, who were seeing 15% to 18% fewer patients than in the previous survey year.
  • Over half of pulmonologists, or 59%, feel fairly compensated, representing an increase of 9% over the last report.
  • If they had a choice, 86% of pulmonologists surveyed would pick medicine again, versus only 78% of physicians overall.

The sample size of the report, which was based on a 10-minute online survey, was 17,903 respondents across more than 29 specialties. Of those who responded, 61% were male and 36% female.