3 ways anesthesiologists can help improve patient safety

Patient Safety Awareness Week was created to make people more mindful of safety in healthcare. It is an opportunity to celebrate successes and to inspire action for further improvement. In honor of this occasion, I’d like to call attention to anesthesia.

 Significant advances have been made in anesthesia resulting in a much safer surgical experience.

Unlike opioid-based anesthetics, which can still commonly be used for conscious sedation, today’s quick-acting, quick-recovery anesthetics like Propofol have little to no addiction concerns. The once-common, severe, anesthesia-related side effects—including hallucinations, nausea and vomiting, which could last days—are now rare. New monitoring technologies further contribute to a much safer anesthesia experience by providing continuous supervision of vital signs such as blood pressure, oxygen levels, heart rate, brain activity and breathing patterns.

While this is exciting news for patients and healthcare providers alike, the human element (i.e. anesthesiologist) also plays an important role in ensuring the safest anesthesia experience for patients. Following are three ways anesthesiologists can further improve patient safety.

1. Whether outsourcing anesthesia services or keeping them in-house, don’t overlook the importance of highly-trained staff. As with any surgical procedure, there is always a level of risk. And while emergencies are rare, if they do happen, it’s important to have personnel equipped in critical care to properly handle the situation. This is especially true for office-based surgical settings. Don’t be afraid to ask your anesthesia provider to prove their track record and quality outcomes.

2. Every physician, patient, and procedure must be a priority for anesthesia providers. Otherwise patient safety and quality of care will suffer. If working with an anesthesia group, request a dedicated team of anesthesiologists and nurses rather than anesthesia providers that rotate out on a periodic basis. There is less chance for error when anesthesiologists are familiar with how a facility and its staff work.

3. When it comes to anesthesia, a one-size-fits-all approach does not work. Each specialty and facility setting has its own unique need. A hospital setting has vastly different needs from an office-based setting. Gastroenterology, urology, dentists and oral surgeons, orthopedic, etc. each have their own unique requirements. Look for an anesthesia partner that is familiar with your area of expertise and offers customized solutions tailored for your specific anesthesia and office needs.


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