Trends in anesthesiology: Employing technology to reduce costs and manage information

by Olga Deshchenko, DOTmed News Reporter | August 22, 2011
From the August 2011 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Cost saving practices
Manufacturers are aware of the goal to reduce costs in anesthesia delivery and are equipping their devices with technologies to help anesthesiologists use fewer pharmaceuticals while maintaining the same level of patient care.

In a recent letter to the editor of Anesthesia News, a director of anesthesia at a medical center in South Carolina wrote that his facility slashed its spending on anesthetic agents by an average of $8,800 a month, which works out to $105,600 a year. The center was able to cut costs of its pharmaceuticals by taking advantage of a previously rarely used feature on its machines called low flow anesthesia.
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When the feature is used, the software indicates when flows are too high, too low or just right for the particular patient undergoing a procedure. Since carrying out the study that helped determine its impact, the center’s anesthesiologists are regularly using the low flow feature, a practice that “has more than met our goal to reduce pharmaceutical costs without limiting our drug options,” the author wrote.

And while the financial savings delivered by low flow anesthesia are increasing its popularity, it’s not the only advantage of the functionality, according to David Karchner, director of marketing, perioperative care, with Dräger.
“Not only is low flow anesthesia better from a cost saving standpoint, it’s also better for the environment because there is less waste,” he says.
The contribution of anesthesia medications to environmental pollution is an ongoing concern in the surgical community, with nitrous oxide, a popular anesthetic, being a known greenhouse gas, although numeric data on its contributions to emissions is scarce. (The ASA has issued guidance on the subject.)
Image courtesy of Drager

Yet, a 2008 study published in the intensive care journal Signa Vitae noted that volatile anesthetics are a small contributor to environmental damage when compared to large-scale industries.

And according to the study, “during low flow or metabolic anesthesia, even taking into account eventual gas leakages from the circuits, the amount of total gases released in the environment is significantly reduced if compared with high flow anesthesia.”

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