Is it Time to Ditch the RVUs?

How do you measure a radiologist’s value? The answer could be crucial as U.S. healthcare moves to a value-based payment model.

Turns out, one common method, known as relative value units (RVUs), may not be accurate enough for radiology.

Ronnie Sebro, MD, PhD, an assistant professor with the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Radiology, writes in Clinical Imaging that RVUs should be ditched for a better method.

Medicare currently uses RVUs to determine how much to reimburse providers. Historically, RVUs were based on volume, with providers earning more reimbursement the more services they provided.

Calculating RVU is currently based on three components:

  • Physician work RVU, which combines the time and acuity for each service according to individual CPT codes
  • Practice Expense RVU, which accounts for other expenses of operating the practice besides physician time
  • Malpractice RVU (MP), the costs associated with professional liability expenses

Sebro’s research used EHR data, including a total of 241,627 radiology studies, to evaluate whether RVUs are a fair way to compare radiologists.

As explained in Radiology Business, the analysis demonstrated that one radiologist could work as little as 41 percent of a peer’s time in the same subspecialty, but record the same number of RVUs. In fact, Sebro noted, radiologists can become burned out under the RVU system if the radiologist’s work effort in terms of time is underestimated.

Instead, radiology providers should consider time-based metrics. “However, there is no perfect method to measure radiologists' work,” Sebro notes.

With increased emphasis on value, it’s important for radiology practices and departments to find solutions that provide enormous value for both radiology and their partner providers and facilities. Novarad’s selection of flexible solutions can help increase your productivity, speed up communications, and increase imaging accuracy.

Contact us today to learn how we can help modernize your workflow.