The Journal of Arthroplasty, Volume 34, Issue 8, 1563 - 1569

Perioperative Telephone Encounters Should Be Included in the Relative Value Scale Update Committee Review of Time Spent on Total Hip and Knee Arthroplasty

Matthew Kheir, Alexander J. Rondon, Vincenzo Bonaddio, Timothy L. Tan, Christy Wang, James J. Purtill, P. Maxwell Courtney
Hip Knee


Providing care for patients undergoing hip and knee arthroplasty requires substantial effort beyond the actual replacement surgery to ensure a safe, clinical, and economically effective outcome. Recently, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has stated that the procedural codes for total hip (THA) and total knee arthroplasty (TKA) are potentially misvalued and has asked for a review by the Relative Value Scale Update Committee (RUC). The purpose of this study is to quantify one of the additional work efforts associated with telephone encounters during the perioperative episode of care.


We retrospectively reviewed all 47,841 telephone calls from patients to our office from 2015 to 2017 in a consecutive series of 3309 patients who underwent TKA and 3651 patients who underwent THA. We recorded reasons for communication, amount of communication, and the caller identity for both 30 days preoperatively and 90 days postoperatively. We then used the RUC Building Block Method to calculate the preservice and postservice work included in a review of the time and intensity of the codes for THA and TKA.


The average number of preoperative patient calls per patient was 2.31 for TKA and 2.44 for THA, and the average number of postoperative calls was 5.01 for TKA and 4.00 for THA. The most common reasons for patient calls were perioperative care instructions, medications, medical clearance, paperwork/insurance, and complications. Using the RUC-approved work relative value units (wRVUs) assigned to each telephone encounter, an additional 1.83 wRVUs for perioperative telephone encounters for TKA and 1.61 for THA should be assigned.


Providing patients with appropriate support during the arthroplasty episode of care requires substantial telephonic support, which should be acknowledged. As the RUC considers reviewing the time and intensity spent on perioperative care for patients undergoing THA and TKA, they should consider appropriately documenting the amount of work required for telephone communication.

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