RUC Operative Time Estimates are Inaccurate, Resulting in Decreased Work RVU Assignments for Longer Urologic Procedures


      To assess whether inaccurate operative time estimates utilized by the Relative Value Update Committee (RUC) contribute to the undervaluation of longer urologic procedures.


      The National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (NSQIP) and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) data sets were reviewed from 2015 to 2017. NSQIP operative time is directly measured, contrasting with CMS times which are determined by the RUC via survey-generated estimates. The 50 most frequently coded urology current procedural terminologies were included. Operative time difference was compared between the 2 data sets, and Spearman's correlation coefficient was utilized to assess differences in wRVU/h.


      A total of 105,931 cases were included. Overall, RUC operative time estimates were longer than NSQIP (124.4 vs 103.5 minutes, P < .001). RUC data overestimated operative time by 42.9% for procedures ≤90 minutes and 16.4% for longer procedures (P < .001). Using NSQIP, procedures ≤90 minutes had higher wRVU/h than longer procedures (12.2 vs 8.7, P < .001), but this was not statistically different using RUC estimates (8.4 vs 7.7, P = .13). Spearman's correlation coefficient confirmed a statistically significant negative relationship between wRVU/h and operative time using NSQIP data (r = −0.57, 95% confidence interval: −7.4 to −0.36), and no statistically significant relationship using RUC data (r = −0.24, 95% confidence interval: −0.49 to 0.04).


      The RUC-intended wRVU/h is more equitable than the NSQIP real-world wRVU/h with regard to operative time. Inaccurate RUC operative time estimates contribute to the undervaluation of longer urologic procedures.
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