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An Academic Relative Value Unit System: Do Transparency, Consensus, and Accountability Work?


Introduction: Academic medicine continues to struggle in its efforts to compensate scholarly productivity. Academic achievements receive less recognition compared to clinical work, evidenced by a lack of reduced clinical hours or financial incentive. Core departmental education responsibilities are often distributed inequitably across academic departments. An approach using an incentive program, which emphasizes transparency, equity, and consensus may help academic departments share core education responsibilities and reward scholarly activity.

Methods: We launched a two-stage approach to confront the inequitable distribution of educational responsibilities and to recognize the scholarly work among our faculty. In the first stage, baseline education expectations were implemented for all faculty members, which included accountability procedures tied to a financial incentive. The second stage involved the creation of an aAcademic rRelative vValue uUnit (ARVU) system which contained additional activities that were derived and weighted based on stakeholder consensus. The points earned in the ARVU system were applied towards additional financial incentive at academic year-end. We compared education contributions before and after implementation as well as total points earned in the ARVU system.

Results: In the first year of implementing education expectations, 87% of faculty fulfilled requirements. Those with a heavier clinical load made up the majority of deficient faculty. Those who did not meet education expectations were notified and had their year-end incentive reduced to reflect this. Faculty conference attendance increased by 21% (P<.001) and the number of resident assessments completed increased by 30% (P<.001) compared to the previous year. To date, faculty across the department have logged a total of 1,240 academic activities in the database, which will be converted into financial bonus amounts at year-end.

Conclusion: We have seen significant increases in faculty participation in educational activities and learner assessments as well as documentation of activities in the ARVU system. A similar system using different specialty-specific activities may be generalizable and employed at other institutions.

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