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Academic vs Community Retinal Surgery for Primary Retinal Detachment- Characteristics, Duration, and Value Analysis of Teaching Modifier.

Ophthalmology Retina 2024 April 31
PURPOSE: To compare operative time and case characteristics of primary rhegmatogenous retinal detachment (RRD) repairs between academic and community vitreoretinal surgeons.

DESIGN: A retrospective, observational clinical study.

SUBJECTS: Patients who underwent primary RRD repair surgeries at Massachusetts Eye and Ear between 2019-2021.

METHODS: A random sample of 20 vitreoretinal surgeons distributed evenly among the "academic" or "community" setting was selected. Fifteen consecutive cases of primary RRD repair surgeries were included from each surgeon. A cost analysis was performed for the teaching modifier for the physician fee and for hospital costs.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Length of surgery.

RESULTS: Of 300 primary RRD repairs, fellows were present in 75%, which comprised all academic surgeon cases and 50% of community surgeon cases, p<0.001. Mean operation length was shorter for non-fellow community surgeon cases (55.0±24.1) than either academic (73.0±30.8) or community surgeon cases with fellows (75.7±32.5) (p<0.001). There was a higher percentage of macula-off RRDs in academic versus community surgeon cases (52.7% vs 38.0%, p=0.002) and higher rates of combined scleral buckle (SB)/PPV repairs (14% vs. 3%, p<0.001). When excluding combined SB/PPV cases, there was no difference in operative time between academic and community surgeon cases. Among RRDs repaired by PPV only, there was a 31.4% (16.6 minutes) greater procedure duration in cases with fellows compared to cases without fellows (p<0.001). Covariates associated with greater surgery time: addition of a scleral buckle (β=32.6), membrane peel (β=18.5), presence of a fellow (β=14.5), proliferative vitreoretinopathy (β=12.8), and greater number of retinal breaks (β=2.4). The teaching modifier adds 16% extra reimbursement ($184.16) to the physician fee which is 50.9% of what is necessary to cover the percentage increase in surgeon time (31.4%). Using a time-driven activity-based costing for hospital costs, the extra 16.6 minutes leads to an additional $1038.00, which is 5.6 times more than the reimbursement for the modifier.

CONCLUSIONS: Retinal detachment repair cases performed by academic surgeons are more likely to be macula-off and include the addition of a scleral buckle, which drive longer operative times. Medicare's reimbursement of the assistant modifier in a teaching facility significantly under compensates the time-driven activity-based costing of trainee participation.

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