With the healthcare system in the state it's in and the current rate of reimbursements, some physicians need to consider ways to increase their income.
One common way is the addition of ancillary services to your practice. Some offices have in-house labs. We do hemoglobin A1C tests. Well, in our case, it is more a service we provide, and we make a buck or two. I certainly can't retire early from the income we make from that. But offices that have a more extensive lab can add a few dollars to the bottom line. Imaging studies can also be a source of additional income. Of course, that requires personnel trained to do the job, and may require certification.
In addition to adding to the practice, there are other potential sources of income for physicians. Speaking for a pharmaceutical company is an example. I know there are physicians who frown on that as they feel that it is "selling out." I feel that if you legitimately believe in the drug and would use it regardless of whether you are a speaker or not, then there is no harm in speaking for the company. I try to focus my lectures on the physiology of the disease state, and try not to dwell on the medication (within the confines of the FDA-approved slides, that is).
Another source of additional income is doing independent medical examinations for legal cases. There are companies lawyers contract with to find experts in certain fields. They then ask a physician to examine a client (usually the plaintiff) and to draw a conclusion based on the history and physical examination and a review of the medical records. The physician gets paid for his time and expertise regardless of the outcome of the case, so the physician shouldn't feel pressured to come up with a conclusion that supports either side. It can be sort of fun to peruse the records and connect the dots. And, you get to bill like a lawyer does — by the hour, for a few hundred each hour. The thicker the medical records, the longer it takes to reads through them.
Clinical research can also be a good source of income. It does require time and expertise, and the right connections. You need a research coordinator as well, often a nurse, but it can be a medical assistant. Pharmaceutical companies generally also sponsor this type of research. If you have the right patient population and the appropriate staff, it can add up to several thousands of dollars a year. And it can be fun and interesting, too. OK, the nerd in me must have just surfaced. Did I just say research is fun?
So, yes, we entered the field of medicine to help people, but also did it because we enjoy science and discovery. Adding researcher and medical examiner to our list of roles gives us additional ways to use our skills while making a few bucks.