The radiology relative value scale: its development and implications

Radiology. 1993 May;187(2):317-26. doi: 10.1148/radiology.187.2.8475267.


In a proactive response to federal government cost-containment pressures, the radiology profession, under the leadership of the American College of Radiology (ACR), in 1988 developed a relative value scale (RVS) for radiologic procedures. Like earlier radiology RVSs, its relative values reflected the physician work and practice costs involved in each procedure. The RVS was constructed by using (a) three types of data (magnitude estimation, charges, and practice costs) obtained by means of surveys and (b) expert consensus panels involving participants from all fields and many organizations in radiology. The RVS was accepted, essentially in toto, by Medicare. Subsequently, the RVS has required much work to correct errors by Medicare and the insurers that administer it, to improve procedure codes, and to develop codes and relative values for new procedures. By moving proactively, radiology preserved fee-for-service against a major threat, reduced payment cuts from those that seemed to be impending, and gained a unique degree of control over its payments. However, the new payment system is complex and does not reward efficacy, cost-effectiveness, or quality.

MeSH terms

  • Cost Control
  • Humans
  • Medicare
  • Radiology / economics*
  • Radiology / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Relative Value Scales*
  • United States