Background: Dialysis maintenance interventions account for billions of dollars in U.S. Medicare spending and are performed by multiple medical specialties. Whether Medicare costs differ by physician specialty is, to the knowledge of the authors, not known. Purpose: To assess patency-adjusted costs of endovascular dialysis access maintenance by physician specialty. Materials and Methods: In this retrospective longitudinal cohort study, patients who were beneficiaries of Medicare undergoing their first arteriovenous access placement in 2009 were identified by using billing codes in the 5% Limited Data Set. By tracking their utilization data through 2014, postintervention primary patency and aggregate payments associated with maintenance interventions were calculated. Unadjusted payments per year of access patency gain were compared across physician specialty. A general linear mixed-effects model adjusted for covariates was used, as follows: patient characteristics, access type (fistula vs graft), clinical severity, type of intervention (angioplasty, stent, thrombolysis), clinical location (hospital outpatient vs office-based laboratory), and resource utilization (operating room use, anesthesia use). Results: First arteriovenous access was performed in 1479 beneficiaries (mean age, 63 years ± 15 [standard deviation]; 820 men) in 2009. Through 2014, 8166 maintenance interventions were performed in this cohort. Unadjusted mean Medicare payments for each incremental year of patency were as follows: $71 000 for radiologists, $89 000 for nephrologists, and $174 000 for surgeons. Billing for operating room (41.8% [792 of 1895], surgery; 10.2% [277 of 2709], nephrology; and 31.1% [1108 of 3562], radiology) and anesthesia (19.9% [377 of 1895], surgery; 2.6% [70 of 2709], nephrology; 4.7% [170 of 3562], radiology) varied by specialty and accounted for 407% and 132% higher payments, respectively. After adjusting for clinical severity and location, type of intervention, and resource utilization, nephrologists and surgeons had 59% (95% confidence interval: 44%, 73%; P < .001) and 57% (95% confidence interval: 43%, 72%; P < .001) higher payments, respectively, for the same patency gain compared with radiologists. Operating room use and anesthesia services were major drivers of higher cost, with 407% (95% confidence interval: 374%, 443%; P < .001) and 132% (95% confidence interval: 116%, 150%; P < .001) higher costs, respectively. Conclusion: Patency-adjusted payments for hemodialysis access maintenance differed by physician specialty, driven partly by discrepant rates of billing for operating room and anesthesia use.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging