Evaluation of Delivery Costs for External Beam Radiation Therapy and Brachytherapy for Locally Advanced Cervical Cancer Using Time-Driven Activity-Based Costing

Kristine Bauer-Nilsen, Colin Hill, Daniel M. Trifiletti, Bruce Libby, Donna H. Lash, Melody Lain, Deborah Christodoulou, Constance Hodge, Timothy N. Showalter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Purpose To evaluate the delivery costs, using time-driven activity-based costing, and reimbursement for definitive radiation therapy for locally advanced cervical cancer. Methods and Materials Process maps were created to represent each step of the radiation treatment process and included personnel, equipment, and consumable supplies used to deliver care. Personnel were interviewed to estimate time involved to deliver care. Salary data, equipment purchasing information, and facilities costs were also obtained. We defined the capacity cost rate (CCR) for each resource and then calculated the total cost of patient care according to CCR and time for each resource. Costs were compared with 2016 Medicare reimbursement and relative value units (RVUs). Results The total cost of radiation therapy for cervical cancer was $12,861.68, with personnel costs constituting 49.8%. Brachytherapy cost $8610.68 (66.9% of total) and consumed 423 minutes of attending radiation oncologist time (80.0% of total). External beam radiation therapy cost $4055.01 (31.5% of total). Personnel costs were higher for brachytherapy than for the sum of simulation and external beam radiation therapy delivery ($4798.73 vs $1404.72). A full radiation therapy course provides radiation oncologists 149.77 RVUs with intensity modulated radiation therapy or 135.90 RVUs with 3-dimensional conformal radiation therapy, with total reimbursement of $23,321.71 and $16,071.90, respectively. Attending time per RVU is approximately 4-fold higher for brachytherapy (5.68 minutes) than 3-dimensional conformal radiation therapy (1.63 minutes) or intensity modulated radiation therapy (1.32 minutes). Conclusions Time-driven activity-based costing was used to calculate the total cost of definitive radiation therapy for cervical cancer, revealing that brachytherapy delivery and personnel resources constituted the majority of costs. However, current reimbursement policy does not reflect the increased attending physician effort and delivery costs of brachytherapy. We hypothesize that the significant discrepancy between treatment costs and physician effort versus reimbursement may be a potential driver of reported national trends toward poor compliance with brachytherapy, and we suggest re-evaluation of payment policies to incentivize quality care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)88-94
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiation
  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cancer Research


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