Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013
This Week's News
This Week's News
Gauging the cost of physician work: Panel provides fair, objective advice
As rapid advances in science and technology impact how physicians work, a panel of physician experts is evaluating the time and resources required for each medical service to ensure the value assigned to it keeps pace with these changes.
An AMA-convened physician panel known as the Relative Value Scale Update Committee (RUC), which responds to the government's annual call for public feedback on Medicare, volunteers its time and expertise to make evidence-based recommendations for gauging the volume of time and resources that goes into one medical service compared with another.
Far from providing recommendations about specific services on a one-time basis, the 31-person committee has focused on more than 1,500 medical services that have changed in recent years. Working with more than 300 experts in medicine and research, the committee has reviewed about 1,300 of these services so far and has recommended reductions to the work value of more than 500 of them, freeing $2.5 billion in Medicare funding to be redistributed to primary care and other services.
An AMA chart (below) depicts the breakdown of the outcomes for the services re-evaluated by the committee.
A new committee member, primary care physician Yul Ejnes, MD, speaks to this important review process in a recent guest post on physician blog KevinMD.com.
Dr. Ejnes emphasizes the fairness with which the committee reviews the work associated with each medical service. Committee members "are charged with using their expertise to evaluate recommendations for physician work RVUs that are presented by the specialty societies," he writes.
Members look at each medical service objectively, he writes. "I was impressed by the fact that I could not tell who was from what specialty based on their comments at the table."
Another primary care physician, Gregory Hood, MD, writes about the importance of the committee in a Medscape Today editorial. He underscores that the committee brings the expertise of the medical community to understanding the resources that go into providing each medical service. "The RUC provides an essential service," Dr. Hood writes.
"The cost of procedures and techniques has changed a lot over the past 20 or so years. Revision of these recommendations needs to continue to move forward, clearly," he writes. "[H]ow one makes changes is perhaps even more important than how one fixes today's problems."
The update committee's complicated work has long garnered the praise of government officials from both sides of the aisle. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has acknowledged the committee's contribution in developing recommendations for innovative delivery models, including medical homes and chronic care coordination, which improve patient care and provide greater value for taxpayers.
According to the American College of Physicians, the committee's efforts to re-evaluate the cost of medical services "is an important step in defining and quantifying the work that is associated with this new model of care."
Read more about the important work of this committee.