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

Although low flow anesthesia enables anesthesiologists to efficiently reduce fresh gas flows, the accumulation of moisture in the breathing systems has been considered a drawback in its use. However, manufacturers have delivered innovations to deal with this issue.

For example, Dräger’s Apollo Anesthesia Workstation, which is equipped with a low flow anesthesia feature called Low Flow Wizard, also includes a warming element as part of its breathing system.

The warming element reduces the opportunity for condensation in the breathing system, according to Karchner.

GE Healthcare, another major player in the anesthesia market, offers a different feature on its digital Aisys Carestation anesthesia system that has the potential to reduce costs and improve quality.

The functionality, called Et Control, is an optional gas delivery mode that enables clinicians to set target EtO2 and EtAA values. Once the anesthesiologist sets the values, Et Control automatically adjusts gas delivery and flow throughout the procedure.

According to Risto Rossi, GE’s global anesthesia segment leader, Et Control reduces the potential of over- or under-delivery of the drug and hypoxia. “It also provides a potential to reduce anesthetic costs because it’s using a minimal flow anesthesia technique,” Rossi says.

However, at this point, only customers outside the U.S. can take advantage of the Et Control functionality. GE hopes to bring the automated anesthesia delivery feature to the States in the future, according to Rossi.

In addition to making better use of the available technologies, providers can save money by reconsidering their staffing models. Staffing costs make up as much as three-quarters of a department’s expenses, according to Somnia Anesthesia.

An all MD-model is often the most expensive, so exploring other options, such as a mix of physicians and certified registered nurse anesthetists or CRNAs alone, can result in savings for the hospital. (Currently, 16 states allow CRNAs to practice independently.)

But shaking up the structure of an anesthesia department can be tricky. According to Somnia’s Goldstein, it’s critical to understand the culture of a facility and the comfort levels of the clinical and administrative stakeholders before a decision to change the employee ratio is made.

Still,, restructuring a department can make a significant difference. In one case, Somnia Anesthesia helped a hospital eliminate its annual anesthesia subsidy of $1.8 million; a readjustment of the facility’s staffing model played an important role in securing the savings.

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