Archive for July, 2011

AAHPM Physician Compensation Survey Reveals Diversity in Pay, High Job Satisfaction

Charles V. (Chuck) Wellman, MD FAAHPM, is Chief Medical Director of Hospice of the Western Reserve in Cleveland, OH, and chair of AAHPM’s Leadership and Workforce Strategic Coordinating Committee

It is with great pleasure that we can finally announce the availability of the AAHPM Physician Compensation and Benefits Survey Report. Two years ago a poll of AAHPM’s members indicated a strong interest in such a survey. Earlier surveys, while helpful, suffered from a low rate of participation and from a lack of depth and refinement in the data. Consequently, the Academy’s Board of Directors charged the Business Practice Task Force to select a vendor who could help to design and implement such a survey. As a co-chair of the Task Force at the time and as current chair of our Leadership and Workforce Strategic Coordinating Committee, I can attest to the many hours that Task Force members spent on this process and the challenges we faced in dealing with the complexity and variability in our field.

The complexity is and will continue to be a challenge. HPM practitioners come from many different backgrounds. We work fulltime and part-time. We work for hospices, hospitals, the Veterans Administration, or as independent practitioners. Some of us are on salary while others have productivity-based compensation. We measure productivity in different ways. Some of us are in academic settings, and many of us have administrative, research, and teaching responsibilities. We have great variability in titles with no consistent agreement on chief medical officer, medical director, associate medical director, and team physician. As you might imagine, each iteration of the survey resulted in further discussion, and we realized a constant tension between designing a thorough, comprehensive survey versus a survey that might be too complex or time-consuming. In the end we find ourselves very pleased and grateful that nearly 800 of us were willing to complete this survey.

One will find that there is a wealth of data in this survey. It tells us a lot about who we are in this relatively young field. It will help to establish ranges of benefits and compensation, which will be increasingly important as we strive to attract residents and mid-career physicians to our field. The survey will give us greater flexibility in negotiating work hours, time off, productivity expectations, and CME benefits. There were also questions about job satisfaction, and it is exciting and gratifying to know 96% of us are satisfied or very satisfied with our profession and 93% of us are likely or very likely to recommend a career in HPM.

The survey will continue to be a work in progress. As we review the current survey results, it is expected that additional questions will arise, and there will be recommendations on how to further refine the survey questions. The unique and evolving arrangements in our field will challenge our future revisions, but we invite your feedback and encourage dialogue on how we can make future surveys more helpful and accurate. Comments can also be sent to the Academy at info@aahpm.org, (Subject: Comp Survey Feedback.) It is an exciting start.

Palliative Care for Cancer Patients in Treatment

by Porter Storey, MD, AAHPM Executive Vice President

Palliative care teams should be consulted more often for cancer patients in active treatment.

I know, I am “preaching to the choir” on this blog, but it may be important how we explain this to our various “stakeholders.”

The Public – Palliative care can help align patient wishes with their treatments and make sure patients and families are comfortable and supported.

Patients – Palliative care can help with symptom management, care coordination, psychosocial support so that you can continue your treatment and continue to do so after it is completed.

Hospice Programs – Palliative care can provide support before they qualify for hospice and refer patients to hospices sooner, for longer lengths of stay.

Payors and Program Administrators – Palliative care consultations can reduce costs and improve quality for the sickest (and most expensive) patients we care for. It can reduce hospital readmissions and save thousands of dollars per hospitalized patients (for the latest of many articles see Nelson C, et al. Inpatient Palliative Care Consults and the Probability of Hospital Readmission. Permanente J. 2011, 15(2):48-51.)

Referring Oncologists – Palliative care can act as an extension of the oncology care team so oncologists can focus on giving treatment. And as Tom Smith and Bruce Hilner argue in the May 26 NEJM, “bend the cost curve” so that we can afford to offer expensive new treatments to patients who can benefit from them (N Engl J Med 2011; 364:2060-2065).

Let’s not apply the wrong argument to the wrong class of stakeholders.

What do we say to the politicians?

Join the discussion when AAHPM offers the webinar “Changing the Mindset: Integrating Palliative Care into Cancer Treatment” lead by Tom Smith on Tuesday July 14 at 3pm ET.