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Male docs get more industry money than female peers

by Thomas Dworetzky, Contributing Reporter | January 02, 2018
Business Affairs
Another case of gender disparity
in the workplace?
Financial inequities between industry payments to men and women physicians are “pervasive,” say authors of a new JAMA Internal Medicine research letter analyzing 2015 payments received by over 930,000 U.S. doctors — from consulting fees and covering expenses to grants — by gender and specialty.

Female doctors represented one third of the total of physician records examined in the study. In all specialties men were paid more, with a median advantage of $1,470. In one case, male neurosurgeons pulled in payments worth about $15,800; women neurosurgeons only got $3,970.

“At first glance, this finding can be interpreted as merely another example of gender disparity in the workplace, which we have seen before with gender gaps in physician salaries and research funding,” study coauthor Kathryn Tringale of the University of California, San Diego, told Reuters.

The researchers combed through a combination of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services National Plan & Provider Enumeration System and the 2015 Open Payment reports, which tracks payments to U.S. doctors.

Although the data starkly showed the financial discrepancy, it doesn't necessarily paint as clear a picture of underlying causes, she advised.

"A lot of this has to do not just with industry targeting certain physicians or certain specialties, but I think it really speaks to the behavior of the physicians themselves and the motivation for their interactions," Tringale told theheart.org | Medscape Cardiology.

For example, some of these financial and business dealings came from relationships formed between men during training or practice, and with the technology as it was developed.

"Having these partnerships in the OR may be a popular place for these interactions to occur because neurosurgery and orthopedic surgery are pretty substantially different from a lot of these other fields," advised Tringale.

Male doctors also did better when it came to the value received from ownership — holding a 93 percent share. Women doctors did hold more equal ownership in some fields, including obstetrics, gynecology, psychiatry and urology.

“Perhaps industries purposely target men more than women, presuming they may have greater influence on market share or sales,” suggested Tringale, adding, “data shows that women hold fewer patents than their male counterparts, which may be explained by fewer initial connections to the marketplace or exclusion of their name from the patent itself after idea generation.”

Gender disparity for doctors was also in the news in April, 2017, when a physician survey found that male physicians continue to make more money than female physicians, although the gap in pay is somewhat shrinking in primary care. Male primary care physicians made 15 percent more than women in 2016, compared with 20 percent more in 2012.

“The gap in specialty salaries has barely budged, with male specialists making 31 percent more than women, versus 33 percent more in 2012,” according to the 2017 Medscape Physician Compensation Report.

The gap was narrowing some for younger doctors — with males over 55 making 27 percent more and those under 35 making just 18 percent more than their female counterparts.

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