For years, hospitals of various sizes have encountered challenges while trying to secure anesthesia coverage that meets their clinical and financial needs.
The U.S. could see a projected shortage of between 37,800 and 124,000 physicians by 2034, based on 2021 data published by the Association of American Medical Colleges. For specialties including anesthesia, the shortfall is expected to be between 10,300 and 35,600 physicians, and for rural hospitals it is anticipated to look like 102,000 to 180,000.
Anesthesia providers were the most commonly used type of locum tenens professionals in the last year, according to AMN Healthcare’s “2022 Survey of Locum Tenens” — a “clear indication” that the number of procedures necessitating anesthesia is increasing, yet there are not enough providers available.
Anesthesia groups are also facing additional financial strain due to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ ongoing reductions in per unit reimbursement. In the 2023 Physician Fee Schedule, there was a proposed anesthesia conversion factor of 20.7191, a decrease of 3.91% from 21.5623 in 2022. CMS’ conversion factor for anesthesia has consistently declined over the past five years. Medicare payment rates for anesthesia are typically 20% of average commercial insurance company rates, compared with rates for other specialties, which average 80% of commercial insurance rates.
As a result of these trends, hospitals risk seeing increased demand for anesthesia services, while struggling with staffing shortages and declining revenue opportunities. Hospital leaders, especially those in rural communities, need to develop new strategies to overcome these issues.
Here are three actions that can help:
Closing utilization gaps.
Surgical block schedules do not always align with real-life utilization patterns. When anesthesia providers have long gaps between cases, it wastes provider time and hospital resources.
By gathering data on hourly utilization and monitoring surgeon block schedule compliance hospitals can identify and resolve scheduling issues thereby improving overall daily efficiency.
Work with payers to balance anesthesia reimbursement.
Government reimbursement rates are fixed, but per-case reimbursement can be negotiated/renegotiated with most private payers and self-insured employers to achieve optimal revenue capture.
Embrace flexible staffing models and partner with an experienced anesthesia management company.
When the outdated anesthesia staffing models are not working, it is time to explore new options. Hospitals seeking reliable, customized, and cost-effective anesthesia services may benefit from working with a professional anesthesia management partner. They can receive guaranteed coverage from experienced providers, while maximizing flexibility and efficiency and minimizing expenses and delays.
CarePlus’ Anesthesia Management has a team of professionals with experience assisting hospitals, including rural hospitals, with professional anesthesia management services.
To learn how we can support your team, please connect with us.