Anesthesia, Cost Center or Partner?

In today’s healthcare environment, facility administrators understand that their anesthesia department will likely require a subsidy or monetary guarantee. Current data suggests that over 90% of all hospital-based anesthesia groups require financial support. There are many factors that influence a subsidy requirement, however major factors include: decreased insurance and payer reimbursements, poor payer mix and low surgical case volumes. Another significant factor is the ongoing epidemic shortage of anesthesia providers. This supply and demand scenario increases recruitment costs and greatly influences fair market value compensation.

Realizing this, facilities must continue to pay anesthesia providers significant subsidies to cover their operating rooms. However, several questions exist and must be asked before that first check is written. Other than operating room coverage and availability what does the money actually pay for? What other value do they add? What is your return on investment? Are they truly a partner or are they merely a cost center? The answers will be important to understand their core values both as people and as a business partner.

Establishing a successful anesthesia partnership not only includes asking those tough questions and understanding their values, but must also be built around open honest communication. Historically, there are several root causes that have caused major conflicts between facilities and anesthesia providers leading to lack of trust and eventual dissolution of contracts and partnerships. Money is easily the number one reason for facilities to change anesthesia providers. This is commonly due to the lack of financial transparency. Stressing an “open-book” accounting policy is imperative. In addition there are several other critical components to a strong relationship. First, take the time to define realistic expectations and goals for both sides. Second, set forth quality metrics and efficiency standards. Keep in mind that the facility must provide all of the crucial resources for the anesthesia provider to be successful and the anesthesia department must accept ownership and responsibility. Also, work with your provider to choose a strong leader to be accountable and integrate them with the hospital administration. Lastly, develop joint cost containment strategies by evaluating products and processes. Possible ways include standardizing medications and disposables, eliminating product redundancy, setting appropriate PAR levels, and even consider economic credentialing.

Albeit, there are many other possible factors to consider tor a facility and their anesthesia provider to have a successful partnership. Hospital administrators must continue to realize the financial commitment that is required for a quality anesthesia department and the anesthesia provider must realize that they aren’t contracted to just staff operating rooms, but rather to be a fully-engaged and vested partner. Novus Anesthesia Partners establishes integrated anesthesia partnerships where we take an active role in helping our facility partners improve their OR operations. The relationships that we establish with our partner facilities are transparent and are designed expressly to meet their unique challenges.