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Healthcare Insights

Medical specialties with the highest average charges

Health insurance plans negotiate reimbursement and coverage with healthcare provider organizations. As hospitals have moved to value-based care models, and concerns grow over unmanageable healthcare costs, understanding service line revenue, charges, and expenses is crucial to measuring hospital financial performance.

Which types of services cost the most?

As additional healthcare reforms, like hospital price transparency, take off in the industry, knowing which services and specialties run up the highest charges is insightful information for both healthcare organizations and patient consumers.

Using data from the Definitive Healthcare Atlas All-Payor Claims dataset, we analyzed claims for medical specialties containing more than 100 providers in the platform. The data in the chart below is representative of claims filed in 2023 through October.

Top 25 medical specialties by average charges

RankMedical specialtyNumber of providersAverage charges per providerExplore dataset
1Cardiac Surgery946$34,757 Explore
2Nephrology13453$24,646 Explore
3Thoracic Surgery2689$23,101 Explore
4Critical Care2118$13,674 Explore
5Pediatric Critical Care2626$12,884 Explore
6Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine7722$12,752 Explore
7Neurosurgery5609$11,807 Explore
8Hematology488$10,592 Explore
9Gynecological Oncology814$9,520 Explore
10Surgical Oncology492$9,296 Explore
11Hospital Medicine43266$9,178 Explore
12General Surgery25077$8,681 Explore
13Pediatric Surgery1059$8,181 Explore
14Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery5979$7,602 Explore
15Pediatric Oncology2272$7,505 Explore
16Medical Oncology2015$7,121 Explore
17Colorectal Surgery1800$6,438 Explore
18Interventional Cardiology282$6,274 Explore
19Cardiac Electrophysiology2450$5,430 Explore
20Oncology13157$5,028 Explore
21Orthopedic Surgery25112$4,451 Explore
22Vascular Surgery4260$4,338 Explore
23Radiation Oncology5424$3,920 Explore
24Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery1568$3,883 Explore
25Internal Medicine87558$3,602 Explore

Fig. 1  Data is from the Definitive Healthcare Atlas All-Payor Claims dataset. Data represents claims filed in 2023 through October. Data accessed November 2023.

Which providers charge the most?

Healthcare providers in the cardiac surgery specialty had the highest average charge per provider at $34,757. Cardiac surgery is a subspecialty of the broader cardiology field. Because heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., it is no surprise that cardiac surgery has become such a lucrative medical specialty. Cardiac surgeries tend to be high-risk, often involving open chest procedures. The highly skilled care team, as well as the long procedure and recovery times required, likely contribute to the high cost of the medical specialty.

The second top medical specialty with the highest average charges per provider was nephrology at $24,646. Not only does nephrology care require regular ongoing treatment, such as dialysis, but it also requires drug and supply orders for patients to continue care at home. One drug used for chronic kidney disease-related anemia, called Mircera, carries an average charge of $14,000 and is the eleventh most commonly billed CPT code for this specialty. The regular treatments along with drug and supply costs likely drive the high charges for this specialty.

Thoracic surgery is the third top medical specialty by average charges, with an average charge of $23,101 per provider. Thoracic surgery is a subspecialty of the broader surgery field. Because thoracic services involve treating many issues with the chest, including the heart, lungs, and throat, the procedures tend to involve a mix of high-risk open and non-invasive surgeries, likely contributing to thoracic surgery being a high-cost specialty.

Why are physician specialties important?

Physician specialties are a critical component in providing high-quality, focused care for various health-related concerns. With the health system broken down into many medical specialties and subspecialties, providers can focus their expertise on one or a few types of diseases, organs, body systems, or patient populations.

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