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Work RVUs of U.S. physicians by specialty 2016

Among physicians in the United States the work relative value units (RVUs) were highest among anesthesiologists, followed by ophthalmologists. Among anesthesiologists, the work relative value units were 10,891 as of 2016. The specialty with the least work RVUs at that time was psychiatry with 4,079 RVUs. Relative value units are used by Medicare to determine physician fees for services rendered.

Medicare population

Medicare is a federal health insurance program in the United States aimed at providing affordable health services to those aged 65 and older and those with disabilities or certain other conditions. In recent years the percentage of the U.S. population that is covered by Medicare has increased dramatically in recent years. A majority of Medicare beneficiaries are enrolled in the program based on age, while the proportion of those qualified based on disability is significantly less.

Physicians and Medicare

Medicare has three parts (Part A, Part B and Part C) that cover various aspects of health care. Among all parts of Medicare coverage most recent estimates suggest that Medicare Part B made the largest share of Medicare payments. Medicare Part B is a medical insurance that covers doctors’ appointments, outpatient visits, medical supplies and prevention services. Medicare spending and payments to physicians also varies by specialty. According to recent estimates, internal medicine physicians and ophthalmologists received the most Medicare payments.

Work relative value units (RVUs) of U.S. physicians as of 2016, by specialty*

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Release date

January 2017


United States

Survey time period


Number of respondents

92,000 physicians

Method of interview

Email survey

Supplementary notes

* Median values. Relative value units (RVUs) are a measure of value used in the United States Medicare reimbursement formula for physician services.

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Statistics on "Physicians in the U.S."

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