Relative value units

Relative value units

Relative value units (RVUs) were designed to provide relative economic values for medical care based on the cost of providing services categorized as a physician work, practice expense, and professional liability. … RVUs were designed to provide a rational approach to assessing the relative value of medical services.


The debate surrounding the integration of value in healthcare delivery and reimbursement reform has centered around integrating quality metrics into the current fee-for-service relative value units (RVU) payment model. Although a great amount of literature has been published on the creation and utilization of the RVU, there remains a dearth of information on how clinicians from various specialties view RVU and the quality-of-care metric in the compensation formula. The aim of a review was to analyze and consolidate existing theories on the RVU payment model in neurosurgery. Google and PubMed were searched for English-language literature describing opinions on the RVU in neurosurgery. The commentary was noted to be primary opinions if it was mentioned at least twice in the eight articles included in this review. Overall, seven primary opinions on the RVU were identified across the analyzed articles. Integration of quality into the RVU is viewed favorably by neurosurgeons with a few caveats and opportunities for further improvement 1).


The work relative value unit (wRVU) is a commonly cited surrogate for surgical complexity; however, it is highly susceptible to subjective interpretation and external forces.


The objective of Kim et al. was to evaluate whether wRVU is associated with perioperative outcomes, including complications, after brain tumor surgery. The 2006-2014 American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program database was queried to identify patients ≥ 18 years who underwent brain tumor resection. Patients were categorized into approximate quintiles based on total wRVU. The relationship between wRVU and several perioperative outcomes was assessed with univariate and multivariate analyses. Subgroup analyses were performed using a Current Procedural Terminology code common to all wRVU groups. The 16,884 patients were categorized into wRVU ranges 0-30.83 (4664 patients), 30.84-34.58 (2548 patients), 34.59-38.04 (3147 patients), 38.05-45.38 (3173 patients), and ≥ 45.39 (3352 patients). In multivariate logistic regression analysis, increasing wRVU did not predict more 30-day postoperative complications, except respiratory complications and need for blood transfusion. Linear regression analysis showed that wRVU was poorly correlated with operative duration and length of stay. On multivariate analysis of the craniectomy subgroup, wRVU was not associated with overall or respiratory complications. The highest wRVU group was still associated with greater risk of requiring blood transfusion (OR 3.01, p < 0.001). Increasing wRVU generally did not correlate with 30 days postoperative complications in patients undergoing any surgery for brain tumor resection; however, the highest wRVU groups may be associated with greater risk of respiratory complications and need for transfusion. These finding suggests that wRVU may be a poor surrogate for case complexity 2).


In a cross-sectional review of registry data using the ACS NSQIP 2016 Participant User File and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services physician procedure time file for 2018. Uppal et al. analyzed total RVUs for surgeries by operative time to calculate RVU per hour and stratified by specialty. Multivariate regression analysis adjusted for patient comorbidities, age, length of stay, and ACS NSQIP mortality and morbidity probabilities. The surgeon self-reported operative times from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services physician were compared with operative times recorded in the ACS NSQIP, with excess time from RUC estimates termed “overreported time.”

Analysis of 901,917 surgeries revealed a wide variation in median RVU per hour between specialties. Orthopedics (14.3), neurosurgery (12.9), and general surgery (12.1) had the highest RVU per hour, whereas gynecology (10.2), plastic surgery (9.5), and otolaryngology (9) had the lowest (P<.001 for all comparisons). These results remained unchanged on multivariate regression analysis. General surgery had the highest median overreported operative time (+26 minutes) followed by neurosurgery (+23.5 minutes) and urology (+20 minutes). Overreporting of the operative time strongly correlated to higher RVU per hour (r=0.87, P=.002).

Despite reliable electronic records, the AMARUC continues to use inaccurate self-reported RUC surveys for operative times. This results in discrepancies in RVU per hour (and subsequent reimbursement) across specialties and a persistent disparity for women-specific procedures in gynecology. Relative value units levels should be based on the available objective data to eliminate these disparities 3).


1)

Satarasinghe P, Shah D, Koltz MT. The Perception and Impact of Relative Value Units (RVUs) and Quality-of-Care Compensation in Neurosurgery: A Literature Review. Healthcare (Basel). 2020 Dec 1;8(4):526. doi: 10.3390/healthcare8040526. PMID: 33271871; PMCID: PMC7711854.
2)

Kim RB, Scoville JP, Karsy M, Lim S, Jensen RL, Menacho ST. Work relative value units and perioperative outcomes in patients undergoing brain tumor surgery. Neurosurg Rev. 2021 Jul 8. doi: 10.1007/s10143-021-01601-6. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34236568.
3)

Uppal S, Rice LW, Spencer RJ. Discrepancies Created by Surgeon Self-Reported Operative Time and the Effects on Procedural Relative Value Units and Reimbursement. Obstet Gynecol. 2021 Jul 8. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000004467. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34237766.

Operculoinsular cortectomy

Operculoinsular cortectomy

Operculoinsular cortectomy for refractory epilepsy is a relatively safe therapeutic option but temporary neurological deficits after surgery are frequent. A study of Bouthillier et al. highlighted the role of frontal/parietal opercula resections in postoperative complications. Corona radiata ischemic lesions are not clearly related to motor deficits. There were no obvious permanent neurological consequences of losing a part of an epileptic insula, including on the dominant side for language. A low complication rate can be achieved if the following conditions are met: 1) microsurgical technique is applied to spare cortical branches of the middle cerebral artery; 2) the resection of an opercula is done only if the opercula is part of the epileptic focus; and 3) the neurosurgeon involved has proper training and experience 1).


The goal of a study of Bouthillier et al. of the Sainte-Justine University Hospital CenterMontrealQuebecCanada, was to document seizure control outcome after operculoinsular cortectomy in a group of patients investigated and treated by an epilepsy team with 20 years of experience with this specific technique.

Clinical, imaging, surgical, and seizure control outcome data of all patients who underwent surgery for refractory epilepsy requiring an operculoinsular cortectomy were retrospectively reviewed. Tumors and progressive encephalitis cases were excluded. Descriptive and uni- and multivariate analyses were done to determine seizure control outcome and predictors.

Forty-three patients with 44 operculoinsular cortectomies were studied. Kaplan-Meier estimates of complete seizure freedom (first seizure recurrence excluding auras) for years 0.5, 1, 2, and 5 were 70.2%, 70.2%, 65.0%, and 65.0%, respectively. With patients with more than 1 year of follow-up, seizure control outcome Engel class I was achieved in 76.9% (mean follow-up duration 5.8 years; range 1.25-20 years). With multivariate analysis, unfavorable seizure outcome predictors were frontal lobe-like seizure semiology, shorter duration of epilepsy, and the use of intracranial electrodes for invasive monitoring. Suspected causes of recurrent seizures were sparing of the language cortex part of the focus, subtotal resection of cortical dysplasia/polymicrogyria, bilateral epilepsy, and residual epileptic cortex with normal preoperative MRI studies (insula, frontal lobe, posterior parieto-temporal, orbitofrontal).

The surgical treatment of operculoinsular refractory epilepsy is as effective as epilepsy surgery in other brain areas. These patients should be referred to centers with appropriate experience. A frontal lobe-like seizure semiology should command more sampling with invasive monitoring. Recordings with intracranial electrodes are not always required if the noninvasive investigation is conclusive. The complete resection of the epileptic zone is crucial to achieving good seizure control outcome 2).


In 2017 Bouthillier et al. published twenty-five patients underwent an epilepsy surgery requiring an operculoinsular cortectomy: mean age at surgery was 35 y (9-51), mean duration of epilepsy was 19 y (5-36), 14 were female, and mean duration of follow-up was 4.7 y (1-16). Magnetic resonance imaging of the operculoinsular area was normal or revealed questionable nonspecific findings in 72% of cases. Investigation with intracranial EEG electrodes was done in 17 patients. Surgery was performed on the dominant side for language in 7 patients. An opercular resection was performed in all but 2 patients who only had an insulectomy. Engel class I seizure control was achieved in 80% of patients. Postoperative neurological deficits (paresis, dysphasia, alteration of taste, smell, hearing, pain, and thermal perceptions) were frequent (75%) but always transient except for 1 patient with persistent mild alteration of thermal and pain perception. 3).

References

1)

Bouthillier A, Weil AG, Martineau L, Létourneau-Guillon L, Nguyen DK. Operculoinsular cortectomy for refractory epilepsy. Part 2: Is it safe? J Neurosurg. 2019 Sep 20:1-11. doi: 10.3171/2019.6.JNS191126. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 31597116.
2)

Bouthillier A, Weil AG, Martineau L, Létourneau-Guillon L, Nguyen DK. Operculoinsular cortectomy for refractory epilepsy. Part 1: Is it effective? J Neurosurg. 2019 Sep 20:1-10. doi: 10.3171/2019.4.JNS1912. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 31629321.
3)

Bouthillier A, Nguyen DK. Epilepsy Surgeries Requiring an Operculoinsular Cortectomy: Operative Technique and Results. Neurosurgery. 2017 Oct 1;81(4):602-612. doi: 10.1093/neuros/nyx080. PubMed PMID: 28419327.

Unplanned hospital readmission after cranial neurosurgery

Unplanned hospital readmission after cranial neurosurgery

Many readmissions may be preventable and occur at predictable time intervals. The causes and timing of readmission vary significantly across neurosurgical subgroups. Future studies should focus on detecting specific complications in select cohorts at predefined time points, which may allow for interventions to lower costs and reduce patient morbidity 1).


Hospital readmission to a hospital (non-index) other than the one from which patients received their original care (index) has been associated with increases in both morbidity and mortality for cancer patients.

Of patient readmissions following brain tumor resection, 15.6% occur at a non-index facility. Low procedure volume is a confounder for non-index analysis and is associated with an increased likelihood of major complications and mortality, as compared to readmission to high-procedure-volume hospitals. Further studies should evaluate interventions targeting factors associated with unplanned readmission 2).


In a single-center Canadian experience. Almost one-fifth of neurosurgical patients were readmitted within 30 days of discharge. However, only about half of these patients were admitted for an unplanned reason, and only 10% of all readmissions were potentially avoidable. This study demonstrates unique challenges encountered in a publicly funded healthcare setting and supports the growing literature suggesting 30-day readmission rates may serve as an inappropriate quality of care metric in neurosurgical patients. Potentially avoidable readmissions can be predicted, and further research assessing predictors of avoidable readmissions is warranted 3).

A study of Elsamadicy et al. suggested that infection, altered mental status, and new sensory/motor deficits were the primary complications leading to unplanned 30-day readmission after cranial neurosurgery 4).


The preponderance of postdischarge mortality and complications requiring readmission highlights the importance of posthospitalization management 5).


Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is known to be associated with negative outcomes and is underdiagnosed. The STOP-Bang questionnaire is a screening tool for OSA that has been validated in both medical and surgical populations. Given that readmission, after surgical intervention is an undesirable event, Caplan et al. sought to investigate, among patients not previously diagnosed with OSA, the capacity of the STOP-Bang questionnaire to predict 30-day readmissions following craniotomy for a supratentorial tumor.

For patients undergoing craniotomy for treatment of a supratentorial neoplasm within a multiple-hospital academic medical center, data were captured in a prospective manner via the Neurosurgery Quality Improvement Initiative (NQII) EpiLog tool. Data were collected over a 1-year period for all supratentorial craniotomy cases. An additional criterion for study inclusion was that the patient was alive at 30 postoperative days. Statistical analysis consisted of simple logistic regression, which assessed the ability of the STOP-Bang questionnaire and additional variables to effectively predict outcomes such as 30-day readmission, 30-day emergency department (ED) visit, and 30-day reoperation. The C-statistic was used to represent the receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve, which analyzes the discrimination of a variable or model.

Included in the sample were all admissions for supratentorial neoplasms treated with craniotomy (352 patients), 49.72% (n = 175) of which were female. The average STOP-Bang score was 1.91 ± 1.22 (range 0-7). A 1-unit higher STOP-Bang score accurately predicted 30-day readmissions (OR 1.31, p = 0.017) and 30-day ED visits (OR 1.36, p = 0.016) with fair accuracy as confirmed by the ROC curve (C-statistic 0.60-0.61). The STOP-Bang questionnaire did not correlate with 30-day reoperation (p = 0.805) or home discharge (p = 0.315).

The results of this study suggest that undiagnosed OSA, as assessed via the STOP-Bang questionnaire, is a significant predictor of patient health status and readmission risk in the brain tumor craniotomy population. Further investigations should be undertaken to apply this prediction tool in order to enhance postoperative patient care to reduce the need for unplanned readmissions 6).


Lopez Ramos et al., from the Department of Neurological Surgery, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA, examined clinical risk factors and postoperative complications associated with 30-day unplanned hospital readmissions after cranial neurosurgery.

They queried the American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program database from 2011-2016 for adult patients that underwent a cranial neurosurgical procedure. Multivariable logistic regression with backwards model selection was used to determine predictors associated with 30-day unplanned hospital readmission.

Of 40,802 cranial neurosurgical cases, 4,147 (10.2%) had an unplanned readmission. Postoperative complications were higher in the readmission cohort (18.5% vs 9.9%, p <0.001). On adjusted analysis, clinical factors predictive of unplanned readmission included hypertension, COPD, diabetes, coagulopathy, chronic steroid use, and preoperative anemia, hyponatremia, and hypoalbuminemia (all p ≤ 0.01). Higher ASA class (III-V), operative time >216 minutes, and unplanned reoperation were also associated with an increased likelihood of readmission (all p ≤0.001). Postoperative complications predictive of unplanned readmissions were wound infection (OR 4.90, p <0.001), pulmonary embolus (OR 3.94, p <0.001), myocardial infarction/cardiac arrest (OR 2.37, p <0.001), sepsis (OR 1.73, p <0.001), deep venous thrombosis (1.50, p=0.002), and urinary tract infection (OR 1.45, p=0.002). Female sex, transfer status, and postoperative pulmonary complications were protective of readmission (all p <0.05)

Unplanned hospital readmission after cranial neurosurgery is a common event. Identification of high-risk patients who undergo cranial procedures may allow hospitals to reduce unplanned readmissions and associated healthcare costs 7).


Cusimano et al., conducted a systematic review of several databases; a manual search of the Journal of NeurosurgeryNeurosurgeryActa NeurochirurgicaCanadian Journal of Neurological Sciences; and the cited references of the selected articles. Quality review was performed using the STROBE (Strengthening the Reporting of Observational Studies in Epidemiology) criteria. Findings are reported according to the PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) guidelines.

A total of 1344 articles published between 1947 and 2015 were identified; 25 were considered potentially eligible, of which 12 met inclusion criteria. The 30-day readmission rates varied from 6.9% to 23.89%. Complications arising during or after neurosurgical procedures were a prime reason for readmission. Race, comorbidities, and longer hospital stay put patients at risk for readmission.

Although readmission may be an important indicator for good care for the subset of acutely declining patients, neurosurgery should aim to reduce 30-day readmission rates with improved quality of care through systemic changes in the care of neurosurgical patients that promote preventive measures 8).

References

1)

Taylor BE, Youngerman BE, Goldstein H, Kabat DH, Appelboom G, Gold WE, Connolly ES Jr. Causes and Timing of Unplanned Early Readmission After Neurosurgery. Neurosurgery. 2016 Sep;79(3):356-69. doi: 10.1227/NEU.0000000000001110. PubMed PMID: 26562821.
2)

Jarvis CA, Bakhsheshian J, Ding L, Wen T, Tang AM, Yuan E, Giannotta SL, Mack WJ, Attenello FJ. Increased complication and mortality among non-index hospital readmissions after brain tumor resection is associated with low-volume readmitting hospitals. J Neurosurg. 2019 Oct 4:1-13. doi: 10.3171/2019.6.JNS183469. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 31585421.
3)

Wilson MP, Jack AS, Nataraj A, Chow M. Thirty-day readmission rate as a surrogate marker for quality of care in neurosurgical patients: a single-center Canadian experience. J Neurosurg. 2018 Jul 1:1-7. doi: 10.3171/2018.2.JNS172962. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 29979117.
4)

Elsamadicy AA, Sergesketter A, Adogwa O, Ongele M, Gottfried ON. Complications and 30-Day readmission rates after craniotomy/craniectomy: A single Institutional study of 243 consecutive patients. J Clin Neurosci. 2018 Jan;47:178-182. doi: 10.1016/j.jocn.2017.09.021. Epub 2017 Oct 12. PubMed PMID: 29031542.
5)

Dasenbrock HH, Yan SC, Smith TR, Valdes PA, Gormley WB, Claus EB, Dunn IF. Readmission After Craniotomy for Tumor: A National Surgical Quality Improvement Program Analysis. Neurosurgery. 2017 Apr 1;80(4):551-562. doi: 10.1093/neuros/nyw062. PubMed PMID: 28362921.
6)

Caplan IF, Glauser G, Goodrich S, Chen HI, Lucas TH, Lee JYK, McClintock SD, Malhotra NR. Undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea as a predictor of 30-day readmission for brain tumor patients. J Neurosurg. 2019 Jul 19:1-6. doi: 10.3171/2019.4.JNS1968. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 31323636.
7)

Lopez Ramos C, Brandel MG, Rennert RC, Wali AR, Steinberg JA, Santiago-Dieppa DR, Burton BN, Pannell JS, Olson SE, Khalessi AA. Clinical Risk Factors and Postoperative Complications Associated with Unplanned Hospital Readmissions After Cranial Neurosurgery. World Neurosurg. 2018 Jul 24. pii: S1878-8750(18)31614-0. doi: 10.1016/j.wneu.2018.07.136. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 30053566.
8)

Cusimano MD, Pshonyak I, Lee MY, Ilie G. A systematic review of 30-day readmission after cranial neurosurgery. J Neurosurg. 2017 Aug;127(2):342-352. doi: 10.3171/2016.7.JNS152226. Epub 2016 Oct 21. PubMed PMID: 27767396.
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