Cost accounting in radiation oncology: A computer-based model for reimbursement

Carlos A. Perez, Beverly Kobeissi, Bill D. Smith, Seymour Fox, Perry W. Grigsby, James A. Purdy, Hal D. Procter, Todd H. Wasserman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Purpose: The skyrocketing cost of medical care in the United States has resulted in multiple efforts in cost containment. The present work offers a rational computer-based cost accounting approach to determine the actual use of resources in providing a specific service in a radiation oncology center. Methods and Materials: A procedure-level cost accounting system was developed by using recorded information on actual time and effort spent by individual staff members performing various radiation oncology procedures, and analyzing direct and indirect costs related to staffing (labor), facilities and equipment, supplies, etc. Expenditures were classified as direct or indirect and fixed or variable. A relative value unit was generated to allocate specific cost factors to each procedure. Results: Different costs per procedure were identified according to complexity. Whereas there was no significant difference in the treatment time between low-energy (4 and 6 MV) or high-energy (18 MV) accelerators, there were significantly higher costs identified in the operation of a high-energy linear accelerator, a reflection of initial equipment investment, quality assurance and calibration procedures, maintenance costs, service contract, and replacement parts. Utilization of resources was related to the complexity of the procedures performed and whether the treatments were delivered to inpatients or outpatients. In analyzing time motion for physicians and other staff, it was apparent that a greater effort must be made to train the staff to accurately record all times involved in a given procedure, and it is strongly recommended that each institution perform its own time motion studies to more accurately determine operating costs. Sixty-six percent of our facility's global costs were for labor, 20% for other operating expenses, 10% for space, and 4% for equipment. Significant differences were noted in the cost allocation for professional or technical functions, as labor, space, and equipment costs are higher in the latter. External beam treatment-related procedures accounted for more than 50% of all technical and professional revenues, simulation for 8% to 10%, and other physics/dosimetry procedures for 11% to 14% of revenues. Some discrepancies were identified between the actual cost and level of reimbursement of various procedures. Details are described in the manuscript. Conclusion: It is imperative to develop an equitable reimbursement system for radiation oncology services, based on cost accounting and other measures that may enhance productivity and reduce the cost per procedure unit, while at the same time preserving the highest quality of service provided to patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)895-906
Number of pages12
JournalInternational journal of radiation oncology, biology, physics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Apr 2 1993


  • Computer-based model
  • Cost accounting
  • Radiation therapy cost analysis
  • Reimbursement


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