Bad news for anesthesia

Here are three major concerns plaguing the anesthesia industry. 

Consolidation and private equity influence 

Thomas Durick, MD, anesthesiologist at Columbus-based Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, told Becker's: "As private equity firms keep buying up practices and making promises to hospital administrators they cannot keep (such as "We can reduce your costs by not having to pay a sustenance fee to an anesthesia group," "We can staff all your operating suites fully," or "We can recruit and retain better"), the art of private practice will go the way of the dinosaur. We will all become employees of whichever firm/company/entity offers us the best package that meets our basic needs."

Reimbursement woes

Anesthesia reimbursements have been on the decline over the past few years.

According to a report from the American Association of Physician Leadership, over the last 23 years, the inflation-adjusted Medicare reimbursement for the selected pain management procedures decreased annually by 2.81%.

The average anesthesia reimbursement rate for 2023 was $21.88, which is a 5.5% decline from 2019, according to a blog post from Coronis Health.

Staffing shortages

According to a whitepaper from Medicus Healthcare Solutions, nearly 30% of anesthesiologists are predicted to leave the practice by 2033.

Staffing shortages are a problem throughout healthcare, but anesthesia provider shortages pose a special challenge.

"Physician shortages in many specialties are an ever-growing concern as a threat to public health and safety," Joseph Mazzola, DO, vice president of medical affairs at Iredell Health System in Statesville, N.C., told Becker's. "Of significant concern specific to the projected anesthesiologist shortage is the ability for hospitals and health systems to ensure that a highly qualified physician is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide anesthesia care to patients who require emergent surgical intervention. Elective surgeries are scheduled in advance; however, when a patient suffers a gallbladder attack, acute appendicitis or other surgical emergency, hospitals need to be able to take the patient to the operating arena for surgical intervention, which includes the safe delivery of anesthesia care."

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