The average doctor is getting 12 percent fewer patients, working fewer hours, but spending just as much time seeing his patients as a doctor did a decade ago, according to a study by two American Medical Association economists. Physicians have felt the pinch of inflation, too. Their net salaries have about doubled in 10 years -- from $41,800 to $80,800 projected for 1980 -- but taking inflation into account, the AMA estimates physicians' real net income dipped slightly. In 1970, the average physician worked 51.4 hours per week, but this year worked an average of 3.7 percent less. The number of hours allocated to patient care remained virtually the same at 44.7 hours a week.
Volume of patient visits for the average physician declined from 132.5 visits per week to 116.6 a week -- a reduction of 12 percent. Correspondingly, patients didn't have to wait as long to see their physicians toward the end of the decade as they did at the beginning. In 1971, the average patient had to wait 5.6 days for an appointment; that declined to 4.5 days in 1980. Office waiting time also declined by about 10 percent during the decade, the study said.