He may own a small practice on Hawaii's big island, but pediatrician Wes Sugai is getting the most out of his services thanks in large part to his staff.
Sugai, a solo practitioner in Kailua Kona, spends 20 percent of his time at the local hospital and the remainder at his practice, where he estimates he can see about 225 patients in an 80 to 90-hour week. A schedule that grueling is necessary, he says, to make the income he needs to run his practice and take care of his staff: two registered nurses — including one who does billing — a receptionist, and his administrator and accountant, who is also his wife.
"I've developed my own techniques, so that's how we are able to see a lot of patients during my office hours," Sugai said. "Nurses give all the shots and initial work pre-exams, and then carry out whatever procedures need to be done. So that's how I am able to keep my head above water."
In many ways, Sugai is a throwback: A solo doc who still does hospital rounds, employs his family as staff, and works the equivalent of two jobs to make ends meet.
Yet at least he's surviving. His tenacity has put him among a minority of solo physicians whose income has remained flat compared with last year, according to our 2010 Physician Compensation Survey. By contrast, fully half of solo docs say their incomes declined this year — and of this half, about 70 percent saw big declines of at least 10 percent.
Yet while solo docs seem to struggling most profoundly, financial hardships were hardly limited to the little guys. In short, our compensation survey of nearly 1,000 physicians found that it's been a tough year almost regardless of specialty, practice type, location, or size.
How is your own income stacking up with your peers? Are you coping with the double whammy of the Great Recession and healthcare's long-term business challenges any better than your colleagues?
To find out, let's take a closer look at the data.