ASA President Dr. Mary Dale Peterson: Surge preparations + COVID-19 billing challenges in anesthesia

The White House has paved the way for elective procedures to resume, and many states are beginning to relax related bans.

Mary Dale Peterson, MD, president of the American Society of Anesthesiologists, told Becker's ASC Review how anesthesia practices can prepare and explained what billing challenges they may be facing.

Note: Responses were lightly edited for style and clarity.

Question: What measures can practices implement to ensure they have adequate supplies and staffing when elective procedures resume?

Dr. Mary Dale Peterson: This requires a multidisciplinary group with nursing leadership, materials management and surgical operations. There are many considerations:

  • How much capacity does the hospital currently have?
  • What is your [personal protective equipment] and testing capacity?
  • Which patients should be prioritized?

Q: Which COVID-19 services present the biggest billing challenges for anesthesiologists?

MDP: Currently, there are many services anesthesiologists are providing where there is no CPT code, like repurposing an anesthesia machine to become an ICU ventilator or setting up an ICU in an operating room. Additionally, we know that procedures like intubation and arterial and central line placements are far from routine in these patients and that added work, risk and complexity is not acknowledged in current payment rates. It requires a lot of time to don and doff the protective equipment, which is not only uncomfortable to wear but somewhat restricts your vision when doing these procedures. None of this is accounted for in the current CPT codes and payment services described by those codes.

Dr. Peterson and a panel of experts will discuss COVID-19-related topics, including guidelines for resuming elective surgeries, during an April 23 webinar. Click here for more information.

More articles on anesthesia:
AAOS publishes clinical considerations for return to elective surgery
97% of medical practices suffer COVID-19 financial hit: 5 observations for orthopedics
Investor pays $49M for Arizona spine, orthopedic hospital property 

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