Clinical productivity measures may be factors in financial incentives for providing care to specific patient populations and thus may perpetuate inequitable health care.
To identify the association of patient race, age, and sex with work relative value units (wRVUs) generated by outpatient dermatology encounters.
This cross-sectional study obtained demographic and billing data for outpatient dermatology encounters (ie, an encounter performed within a department of dermatology) from September 1, 2016, to March 31, 2020, at the Emory Clinic, an academic dermatologic practice in Atlanta, Georgia. Participants included adults aged 18 years or older with available age, race, and sex data in the electronic health record system.
The primary outcome was wRVUs generated per encounter.
A total of 66 463 encounters among 30 036 unique patients were included. Patients had a mean (SD) age of 55.9 (18.5) years and were predominantly White (46 575 [70.1%]) and female (39 598 [59.6%]) individuals. In the general dermatologic practice, the mean (SD) wRVUs per encounter was 1.40 (0.71). In adjusted analysis, Black, Asian, and other races (eg, American Indian or Native American, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, and multiple races); female sex; and younger age were associated with fewer wRVUs per outpatient dermatology encounter. Compared with general dermatologic visits with White patients, visits with Black patients generated 0.27 (95% CI, 0.25-0.28) fewer wRVUs per encounter, visits with Asian patients generated 0.22 (95% CI, 0.20-0.25) fewer wRVUs per encounter, and visits with patients of other race generated 0.19 (95% CI, 0.14-0.24) fewer wRVUs per encounter. Female sex was also associated with 0.11 (95% CI, 0.10-0.12) fewer wRVUs per encounter, and wRVUs per encounter increased by 0.006 (95% CI, 0.006-0.006) with each 1-year increase in age. In the general dermatologic practice excluding Mohs surgeons, destruction of premalignant lesions and biopsies were mediators for the observed differences in race (56.2% [95% CI, 53.1%-59.3%] for Black race, 53.2% [95% CI, 45.6%-63.8%] for Asian race, and 53.6% [95% CI, 40.4%-77.4%] for other races), age (65.6%; 95% CI, 60.5%-71.4%), and sex (82.3%; 95% CI, 72.7%-93.1%). In a data set including encounters with Mohs surgeons, the race, age, and sex differences in wRVUs per encounter were greater than in the general dermatologic data set. Mohs surgery for basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas was a mediator for the observed differences in race (46.0% [95% CI, 42.6%-49.4%] for Black race, 41.9% [95% CI, 35.5%-49.2%] for Asian race, and 34.6% [95% CI, 13.8%-51.5%] for other races), age (49.2%; 95% CI, 44.9%-53.7%), and sex (47.9%; 95% CI, 42.0%-54.6%).
This cross-sectional study found that dermatology encounters with racial minority groups, women, and younger patients generated fewer wRVUs than encounters with older White male patients. This finding suggests that physician compensation based on wRVUs may encourage the provision of services that exacerbate disparities in access to dermatologic care.