What is your doctor worth per hour in the open market?

Recently I was asked to serve as a consultant on a medical matter.  Interestingly, they requested my hourly price for my services.  I thought about this and wondered, “What am I worth per hour in the open market?”

It is an interesting question to ponder.

I have decided to ask the blog-o-sphere.  Call it a bit of “free market economics.”  For the record, 100% of my hourly wage for my services will be sent to our cardiovascular research fund at our hospital to avoid any conflict of interest.  I will not see ANY of the money the blog-o-sphere decides personally, but I really want to know what people think.

So where to begin?

Should I compare my hourly wage to MGMA standards for the annual physician salary of a physician of my subspecialty?  If so, do I pick the 50% percentile, 25th percentile, 75th percentile, or 95th percentile?  On what basis do I have to assure this is a fair price?  Who sets this price?  Are these data accurate or based on earlier years’ hospital data and physician surveys?  Can I verify that their hourly price is justified?  If so, how?  Or are their data proprietary?

Or maybe I should set my price based on the 2013 Physician Fee Schedule Proposed Rule? (I have no idea how to calculate it, but I’m sure there’s a per-hour number in there somewhere).

Or should I compare my hourly wage to other advanced medical professionals like cardiothoracic surgeons or neurosurgeons?

Or maybe, since primary care doctors are the most numerous physicians out there and I want to be fair, I should calculate my price based on their salaries?  Again, do I base my price on where I live and what I guess primary care doctors are making these days?  Should I base my price on their estimated gross salary or net salary?

Or what about other well-paid advanced degree professions, like lawyers?  Should I charge a price similar to a corporate law firm partner?  Or maybe just his junior partner?

Or maybe I should consider setting the price relative to some really smart hospital CEOs or COOs?  Should I compare my hourly price to theirs?  After all, they carry some pretty big responsibilities managing all those lives, too.

Or maybe I should take it a step further.  Maybe I should set my hourly price to others in the pharmaceutical, insurance, or medical device industry.  Wow, I wonder what their hourly price is if one considers not only their salaries, but benefits, stock options, and the like?  Our research fund might rock, then!  But at the same time, maybe this number will be too high and result in me losing the opportunity to consult.  Should I worry about this?

Or (what the heck), maybe I should I compare my hourly wage to a pro baseball player or a pro basketball player?   We’re professionals too, right?

Or maybe I should ask a patient who received a pacer from me at two in the morning and got through it fine, without an infection or other complication and lived to see another day what they think I should be paid.

Then again, maybe I should factor in not just what my price should be now, but what my price will be in 2014 when 30 million more people are added to our health care system and doctors are in short supply.

Seriously.  What do you think a doctor who is board certified in cardiac electrophysiology, cardiology and internal medicine with almost twenty years of medical experience charge to consult on a per-hour basis?

Think about it but be sure to justify your price per hour.  Then put it in the comments.

Wes Fisher is a cardiologist who blogs at Dr. Wes.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=36408878 Jeff Midgley

    $400 per hour for consult.
    $300 per hour for wage.

    [Good] Doctors are undervalued and underpaid. Let’s not forget that there are bad doctors out there too. Should pay for performance, and there needs to be a “REAL” rating system other than the nonsense of Press Ganey.

    It’s only someone’s life. Why does the value of it get placed on the for profit insurance company?

  • Bunny Ellerin

    Dr. Wes I’d say you are priceless, but we do live in a fee-for-service world. What you charge probably depends on the project and who is doing the asking. If it’s a well-established company with resources, then 400-500/hr is fair for someone of your stature. If it’s a start-up with little money but huge potential, you can opt to charge a lower fee and suggest options. If it’s a venture capitalist looking to pick every part of your brain for an investment that could yield him/her enormous returns…then use your best judgment.

  • http://www.facebook.com/charles.s.hultman Charles Scott Hultman

    One also needs to consider his or her opportunity cost. That is, what amount of money would you normally bring into your business if you were doing your core competency? That number can be quite high, into the thousands of dollars, when considering what you need to cover your overhead. As a university surgeon, with high overhead, a dean’s tax, and a collection rate of 30%, I need to bill about $4000 per hour to cover the costs of my practice and just breakeven. So, if you are doing consulting that takes away time from your practice, then charge high–very high. If you are doing work on your own time–which has little overhead, then charging between 400-800 dollars per hour is reasonable.

  • David Meigs

    Ask yourself: at what rate would you be indifferent to the prospect of loosing the opportunity to another individual?

  • DavidBehar

    Hourly wage has an inherent, irremediable conflict of interest. Costly in lawyers. Dangerous in doctors. People should only get paid by the procedure completed.

    On salary, I can make the same seeing 1 patient or 6 patients an hour. I am better off in every way, including my rest, seeing 1 patient than 6. So I will find good reasons to limit access to care.

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