Doctor Docs: Physician Wages Slow and Gender Gap Widens

Physicians’ real income declined in 2020 with U.S. doctor compensation growing 1.5% on average between 2019 and 2020, but that is compared to a reported inflation rate of 2.3%, according to a recent Doximity study. The fourth annual Physician Compensation Report also found a 28% gender wage gap this year, a significant increase from last year’s study, which found the gap to be 25.2%. This translates to female doctors earning an average of $116,289 less than their male counterparts.

“This year’s report shows how significantly the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting the healthcare industry,” states Peter Alperin, MD, Vice President at Doximity. “By continuing to track this data over a multi-year timeframe, our hope is to assist key stakeholders in understanding employment trends taking shape in the healthcare system.”

In 2020, the five specialties that experienced the highest wage increase were Vascular Surgery (4.9%), Physical Medicine/Rehab (4.7%), Geriatrics (4.6%), Genetics (4.4%), and Emergency Medicine (4.3%). Additionally, medical specialties with the largest gender wage gap were Otolaryngology (-22.1%), Geriatrics (-21.4%), Orthopaedic Surgery (-20.0%), Research (-19.8%), and Obstetrics & Gynecology (-19.6%).

Med Device: Parasites That Feed Us Medicine

Gastrointestinal disorders are known throughout the medical community to be difficult to target with even specialized medicine. To combat this, researchers from John Hopkins University designed a microdevice based on a hookworm, a parasite that can thrive in our GI tracts for years. The microdevices, or “theragrippers,” are equipped with a polymer patch that changes shape in the tract, sinking into its mucus membrane like teeth. Once the polymer patch latches onto the membrane, the shape change releases a drug payload directly into the GI tract. The school’s Department of Chemical and Biomechanical Engineering researchers proved that the theragrippers could hang around rats’ GI tract for a whole day, leading to higher drug exposure over a longer period of time than regularly ingested medicines.

The small devices are heat activated, so they should work anywhere in the GI tract, from esophagus to colon, but the researchers focused their rat study on the colon since therapies for pediatric patients and localized therapies for diseases such as ulcerative colitis are usually delivered rectally. Targeting the GI tract proves promising as it exposes patients to about double the amount of medicine in the same time period, given the immense surface area and high vascularization of the GI mucus membrane. However, researchers are aware that repeated oral or rectal administration of a drug can diminish patient adherence, making extended delivery crucial.

Therapeutic Talk: How Marginalized Groups Feel About U.S. Healthcare

Genentech recently ran a survey to compare common medical experiences of Black, Latinx, LGBTQ+, and other disenfranchised Americans to the American population as a whole. Knowing there is a vast underrepresentation of non-white patients in clinical research, the company inquired into why that is the case. They found that marginalized groups don’t think people are treated fairly in medical situations and even believe that the healthcare system is “stacked against them.”

The study surveyed 2,207 patients with half from the general American population and half who qualified as “medically disenfranchised” from four communities: Black, Latinx, LGBTQ+, and low socioeconomic status (earning less than $35,000 per year). “I’ll be honest, I wasn’t surprised by the findings because my family is part of that medically disenfranchised patient group,” Genentech’s VP and Chief Diversity Officer Quita Highsmith said in a statement. “What we have to do is put these issues out on the table front and center, and we must work with patients to help them feel valued, respected and understood.”

To make matters worse, about half of the medically disenfranchised patients interrupted their care—skipped follow-up appointments or stopped seeking care—for fear that they were not understood. Beyond this, one out of three medically disenfranchised patients will not participate in clinical trials, get vaccinated, or get tested for medical conditions due to lack of trust.

As an initial response, Genentech started an advisory committee to help create more inclusive practices at the beginning of the medical supply chain—clinical trials. Currently, company reps visit communities of color in person to talk to patients and recruit for trials.

Patient Pages: U.S. Citizens Say They’ll Hold Off on COVID Vaccine

Sixty-five percent of U.S. patients say they’ll refrain from receiving a COVID-19 vaccine even if it is made accessible in 2020, according to a Medisafe survey of 16,000 respondents. The digital therapeutics platform reports that patients are concerned about the overall effectiveness and possible side effects of the vaccine as top reasons to delay. Sixty percent of respondents don’t even believe a vaccine will be available before 2021, and 11% of all patients state that they will never get the vaccine. The survey shows a significant amount of distrust in authority—49% of citizens believe the COVID-19 vaccine is being rushed to market, skipping over normal regulations and testing, creating additional concern and hesitancy to become vaccinated. Many respondents also cited confusion over the handling of the pandemic in the U.S. as a primary reason to resist taking the vaccine.

“Despite the apolitical nature of the survey, the open-ended responses and results clearly show that users feel many issues surrounding the vaccine have been politicized, created additional challenges in driving utilization of the vaccine once it becomes available,” Medisafe Chief Marketing Officer Jennifer Butler said in a statement. “This survey provides greater visibility into users’ concerns with taking the vaccine and its potential interaction with chronic conditions and medication therapy, creating opportunities to build awareness and support throughout their journey.”

Further proving that politics are playing a role in trust over the vaccine, respondents wrote that they have greater trust in Dr. Anthony Fauci and following established protocol as leaders in determining whether to take the vaccine, and listed President Trump as encouraging skepticism and hesitancy in its effectiveness in open-ended response questions. Most survey participants prefer to depend on recommendations from their own physicians about whether the vaccine is suitable for them and their families.

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