The work RVU calculator provides quick analysis of work relative value units associated with CPT® and HCPCS Level II codes. By entering the appropriate code and number of units associated with it, you will receive the total work RVUs and individual work RVU value for that code. The RVU calculation results are based on the values supplied by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in the 2023 national Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (MPFS) relative value file.
The Importance of RVUs
Work RVUs are the most frequently used component of the Resource-Based Relative Value Scale (RBRVS). Different from practice expense RVUs and malpractice RVUs, work RVUs — based on wage data for multiple specialty occupation categories — provide a measure of the physician work involved with performing a service or procedure represented by a CPT® or HCPCS Level II code.
On a common scale, physician work RVUs compare the work involved with performing a service to all other services and procedures. For example, removing a foreign body from an eye (CPT® code 65205) is assigned 0.49 work RVUs. But performing a minor eye wound repair (65270) is valued at 1.95 work RVUs. The work required to repair the eye wound, then, is roughly 4 times greater than the work involved with the foreign body removal.
What Measures Are Included in Work RVUs?
Work RVUs assess physician labor on several levels — accounting for technical skill, physical effort, mental effort, judgment, and stress related to patient outcome. But perhaps the most crucial component factored into work RVUs is the time required to perform a service.
Total work involved in a service or procedure refers to three stages of work, each associated with a unit of time:
- Pre-service work refers to work provided before the service or procedure (e.g., reviewing records, discussing procedures with peers, preparing for surgery).
- Intra-service work refers to work involved in providing the service or performing the procedure. The intra-service period is defined as patient encounter time for an office visit, or the time spent on the patient’s floor for a hospital visit. With surgical procedures, the intra-service time, also called “skin-to-skin” time, is defined as the period between making the first incision and closing the incision.
- Post-service work includes all related work provided after the service is delivered (e.g., post-op care, patient stabilization, recovery room care, updating documentation).
For surgical procedures, the total work period is the same as the global surgical period, including recovery-room time, normal postoperative hospital care, and office visits after discharge, as well as preoperative and intraoperative work.
All work RVUs assigned to codes express total work and offer a quantitative measure of the time and effort involved with delivering the service.
Prior to the introduction of the RBRVS, the only means to track a provider’s productivity was to count the number of patients the physician saw and the procedures they performed. This method proved ineffective, offering little more than volume measurements, considering that the work involved in delivering each service varies dramatically.
The number of RVUs generated by a physician is currently the best means available to measure a physician’s productivity. As such, RVUs have become a standard provider compensation model. Although compensation, as defined in employment agreements, differs in terms of RVU thresholds and dollars per RVU, the general intent of the RVU model is to pay physicians based on the amount of work performed, regardless of the payer mix or amount of revenue generated.
CPT® codes are copyright 2022 American Medical Association.
What Are RVUs?
RVU stands for relative value unit. It is a value assigned by CMS to certain CPT® and HCPCS Level II codes to represent the cost of providing a service. An RVU is made up of three components: physician work, practice expense, and malpractice. Medicare payments are determined by RVUs multiplied by a monetary conversion factor and a geographic adjustment.
Work RVUs are often used in provider compensation models where the intent is to pay the provider based on the amount of work performed, blind to the payer mix or amount of revenue generated. Compensation is derived from total work RVUs multiplied by a dollar conversion factor.
Additional Training Options and Resources
Last Reviewed on Jan. 13, 2023, by AAPC Thought Leadership Team