The cost of training neurosurgical residents is especially high considering the duration of training and the technical nature of the specialty. Despite these costs, on-call residents are a source of significant economic value, through both indirectly and directly supervised activities. The authors sought to identify the economic value of on-call services provided by neurosurgical residents.
A personal call log kept by a single junior neurosurgical resident over a 2-year period was used to obtain the total number of consultations, admissions, and procedures. Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes were used to estimate the resident’s on-call economic value.
A single on-call neurosurgical resident at the authors’ institution produced 8172 work relative value units (wRVUs) over the study period from indirectly and directly supervised activities. Indirectly supervised procedures produced 7052 wRVUs, and directly supervised activities using the CPT modifier 80 yielded an additional 1120 wRVUs. Using the assistant surgeon billing rate for directly supervised activities and the Medical Group Management Association nationwide median neurosurgery reimbursement rate, the on-call activities of a single resident generated a theoretical billing value of $689,514 over the 2-year period, or $344,757 annually. As a program, the on-call residents collectively produced 39,550 wRVUs over the study period, or 19,775 wRVUs annually, which equates to potential reimbursements of $1,668,386 annually.
Neurosurgery residents at the authors’ institution theoretically produce enough economic value exclusively from on-call activities to far exceed the cost of their education. This information could be used to more precisely estimate the true overall cost of neurosurgical training and determine future graduate medical education funding.