6 COVID-19 updates for anesthesia practices — Volumes, funding & more


Six COVID-19 updates for anesthesia practices from Anesthesia Business Consultants:

1. Volumes and collections. Many ASCs were closed in March due to COVID-19, causing anesthesia groups to see sharp drops in surgical volumes. As a result, practices can anticipate collections to be down in April and May, with a more significant drop-off in June or July. Fortunately, since many surgery centers are surgeon-owned, there is a strong financial incentive to resume cases.

"By May, things should start returning to normal," said ABC President and CEO Tony Mira. "While a number of practices cannot withstand such a hiatus, those that can will ultimately recover."

2. Federal funding. Anesthesia groups that have attested to the first round of relief payments from HHS can apply for the second $20 billion general distribution fund. A company officer or certified public accountant must complete the application process, which will require access to the practice's latest federal tax return.

3. Medicare payments. Effective April 26, CMS suspended its Advance Payment Program to Part B suppliers and began reevaluating amounts paid under the Accelerated Payment Program. The agency had already paid over $100 billion to healthcare providers and suppliers through the programs.

4. Patient outcomes. Through an artificial intelligence platform called F1RSTAI, ABC evaluated how patient outcomes relate to COVID-19 infections. According to a predictive analysis using data from 40 ABC clients, the top four indicators of mortality in COVID-19 patients were having a preexisting respiratory disease, being immunocompromised, living with a preexisting heart condition, and having diabetes. Length of stay in the ICU wasn't as strongly tied to patient outcomes as originally expected.

5. New roles for anesthesia clinicians. Anesthesia providers are performing more emergency intubations during the COVID-19 crisis, according to a survey of 148 ABC clients. For nearly 1 in 5 respondents, intubations are taking longer than usual because of personal protective equipment and sterile disrobing protocols. Half of respondents said they were being asked to cover ICU services, including vent management or critical care, but only about 30 percent said they were offered payment for ICU coverage.

6. Payer support. Blue Shield of California has made four programs available to qualifying network providers, including hospitals, medical groups, independent physician associations and independent physicians. Blue Shield is providing advance payments, offering loan guarantees, assuming member liability obligations and transitioning certain commercial providers to value-based contracts or risk-sharing capitation contracts.

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