An Examination of the Resource-Based Relative Value Scale Cross-Specialty Linkage Method

by Sally C. Morton, Gerald Kominski, James P. Kahan


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The Resource-Based Relative Value Scale (RBRVS) was developed by surveying panels of physicians from single specialties, then merging the specialty-specific results into a common work scale. The merging process involved two steps: (1) specification of links or equivalent services across specialties: and (2) use of links to align work values from each specialty onto a common scale. This study examines the sensitivity of physician relative values of work (RVWs) to changes in both the specification of links and in the method for aligning specialties. Using the same survey data employed in developing the RBRVS, the authors calculated new RVWs based on an alternative specification of links and an alternative method for aligning specialties. Total RVWs declined by almost 50 percent for anesthesiology, and increased by more than 20 percent for allergists, neurologists, and thoracic surgeons. Most of this change was attributable to the specification of links. The authors conclude that future use of the linkage procedure employed in developing the RBRVS is not warranted without further research. Instead, efforts to update and revise work values could be based on a common scale of work developed by cross-specialty panels, thus eliminating the need for a linkage procedure.

Originally published in: Medical Care, v. 32, no. 1, January 1994, pp. 25-37.

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