An article in the Britain section of the May 14 Economist (Practice makes perfect) got me thinking: Do physicians do better in the single payer, socialistic National Health Service than in the free-wheeling US market?
Here’s some food for thought:
- The average family practitioner salary in the UK is $170,000 (90,000 GBP) compared to $144,000 for a generalist in the US (US national average from Monster.com)
- The typical UK physician receives 90% of his or her compensation from the NHS. In the US physicians complain about all the administrative hassles and expense of chasing payments from a multitude of payers
- Almost all UK physicians have electronic medical records; the hardware and software is often owned by the NHS. In the US EMR adoption is about 15%, and physicians have to pay for the infrastructure and tools themselves
- Pay for performance programs have taken off in the UK. Physicians are leveraging electronic medical records and decision support tools to achieve higher scores than expected. It means more income for the physicians and better care for patients. In the US, pay-for-performance programs are really just getting off the ground, hobbled by the fragmentation of the payer market and lack of electronic point-of-care tools
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May 25 update –My comment on the comments
A number of readers have pointed out that the cost of living is higher in the UK than the US. That’s true, and it means that the standard of living is lower at the same salary level.
In general, US wages are higher than UK wages. But, for primary care physicians the reverse is true. Not only are UK physician salaries higher than for their US counterparts in absolute terms, but UK physicians also do better financially relative to other professions than do US physicians.
Somehow the socialist health care system in the UK has given primary care physicians a higher financial standing in society than the “free market” US system.