Applying the resource-based relative value scale to the Emory angioplasty versus surgery trial.
The resource-based relative value scale developed for use in the Medicare fee schedule can also be very useful in profiling and comparing physicians' cardiovascular utilization across different medical activities. This article applies relative value units (RVUs) to data from the Emory Angioplasty versus Surgery Trial. The Emory Angioplasty versus Surgery Trial was a randomized clinical trial to determine the efficacy of percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA) versus coronary artery bypass surgery (CABG). All physician services in the clinical trial provided to 2 groups of patients--those undergoing CABG and those receiving PTCA-over the course of 4 years were assigned physician work RVUs (representing the intensity of physician work required) and total RVUs (representing both the intensity and practice costs). Physician charges were also compiled. These data were used to profile and compare physician services to the 2 groups of patients by type of service, distribution over time, and clinical department. Comparisons based on RVUs contrast sharply with differences based on charges. Mean physician charges, in 1996 dollars, were $27,158 for CABG patients and $21,491 for PTCA patients, a 26% difference (p <0.001). Physician work RVUs generated an 18.3% difference (p = <0.001). Using total RVUs, the difference between the 2 groups was 3.3% (p = 0.249). Resource-based relative value weights are a valuable tool for analyzing and comparing physicians' use of cardiovascular resource. The results suggest that conclusions about physician resource utilization based on physician charges should be carefully evaluated. When possible, physician work RVUs should be compiled and evaluated along with physician charges.
Becker, ER; Mauldin, PD; Culler, SD; Kosinski, AS; Weintraub, WS; King, SB
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