Anesthesia shortage threatening provider revenue

Surgical services make up around 60% of a facility's revenue, according to a 2023 white paper from Medicus Healthcare Solutions, making access to a dwindling number of anesthesia providers nationwide even more precarious. 

"Healthcare leaders continue to face challenges in how to prioritize the recruitment and retention of surgeons, anesthesia providers and OR staff," the report said. "These roles are critical to maintaining revenue and providing a continuity of care for the communities a hospital or health system supports."

The demand for anesthesiologists is outstripping supply. Nearly 30% of anesthesiologists are predicted to leave the practice by 2033, according to the report, leading to a shortage of 12,500 anesthesiologists. Additionally, more than 17% of anesthesiologists are nearing retirement, and 56% are older than 55. 

ASCs and hospitals across the country are facing major anesthesia shortages. Recently, surgeries at two hospitals owned by Renton, Wash.-based Providence were down by almost 50% in December and January from an anesthesiologist shortage. 

Providers are also facing anesthesia reimbursement declines. Medicare's average anesthesia rate for 2023 was $21.88, a 5.5% decline from 2019, according to an analysis by Coronis Health. 

"Declining physician reimbursements with staff shortages are forcing leaders to become creative with their staffing models and reconsider what anesthesia practices will look like in the future. The next few years will see significant changes in the way we practice anesthesia," Adeel Faruki, MD, assistant professor of anesthesiology and perioperative medicine at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, told Becker's. "I am looking forward to seeing how creative ASCs, hospitals and academic institutions become in order to deal with these reimbursement changes in combination with increasing costs of employment."

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