Misaligned Incentives in Benign Prostatic Enlargement Surgery: More Complex and Efficacious Procedures Are Earning Fewer Relative Value Units

Da David Jiang, Mitchell Hayes, Kyle A. Gillis, Ruslan Korets, Andrew A. Wagner, Jason C. Hedges, Nicholas H. Chakiryan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: Relative value units (RVUs) are the measure of value used in US Medicare reimbursement. Medicare determines physician work RVUs (wRVUs) from the Relative Value Update Committee (RUC) for a procedure based on operative time, technical skill and effort, mental effort and judgment, and stress. In theory, work RVUs should account for the complexity and operative time involved in a procedure. The aim of this study was to assess whether major procedures for treatment of benign prostatic enlargement (BPE) are fairly compensated based on complexity and operative time in the RVU system and compare them with the intended reimbursement. Methods: The American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (ACS-NSQIP) database and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Medicare Physician Fee Schedule were queried from 2015 to 2017. Single, current, procedural terminology codes associated with BPE treatments were included: transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP), photovaporization of the prostate (PVP), holmium laser enucleation of the prostate (HoLEP), retropubic simple prostatectomy (RSP), and suprapubic simple prostatectomy (SSP). The CMS operative times and the NSQIP real data were used in turn to calculate separate values for wRVUs per hour (wRVUs/hr) of operative time. The wRVUs/hr derived from CMS operative times represent RUC-estimated wRVUs/hr and wRVUs/hr derived from NSQIP represent actual wRVUs/hr. Results: A total of 27,664 cases were included from the NSQIP dataset. Median wRVU was 15.3 (interquartile range [IQR] 12.2-15.3), median operative time 50 minutes (IQR 33-74), and median wRVUs/hr 17.0 (IQR 11.6-26.2). RUC-estimated wRVUs/hr were TURP 12.2, PVP 12.2, RSP 9, SSP 9.3, and HoLEP 7.3. The actual wRVUs/hr were TURP 19.1, PVP 15.5, RSP 10.2, HoLEP 9.4, and SSP 7.6. Conclusions: Laser enucleation and simple prostatectomy are highly complex and efficacious procedures for treating BPE, yet the current payment schedule assigns these procedures the least amount of wRVUs/hr. Financial incentives for performing BPE surgeries are clearly misaligned.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)835-839
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Endourology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • BPE
  • BPH
  • HoLEP
  • operative time
  • relative value scales

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Urology


Dive into the research topics of 'Misaligned Incentives in Benign Prostatic Enlargement Surgery: More Complex and Efficacious Procedures Are Earning Fewer Relative Value Units'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this