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Trend to Watch - Inside the Consolidation of Anesthesia Services
Publish Date: June 21, 2022

New in 2022, Outpatient Surgery Magazine is taking a deep dive into significant trends in the ambulatory space with a special “Trend to Watch” article series in the magazine, appearing in print and online. The editors are talking to ASC leaders across the country and tracking these trends with in-depth reporting that reflects current thinking as well as what is expected to unfold in the future.

First, in the January 2022 issue we reported on virtual reality training of OR staffs (osmag.net/VR). This technology offers education platforms that many experts feel will be the standard training tool of the future. The February issue contained a report on anesthesiology services in outpatient facilities – a vital component to any successful ASC business (osmag.net/AnesthesiaTrend). The March issue focused on the independent ASC ownership model (osmag.net/ASCtrend).

The trend that is affecting surgical facilities right now is the increased centralization of anesthesia provider groups as national companies continue to purchase independent facilities. As Outpatient Surgery Magazine reports, “Surgical facilities are forced to adjust on the fly as national firms continue to buy up groups of independent providers. The trend is reflective of an economic system that encourages growth by leveraging economies of scale. Consolidation isn’t the only factor creating an anesthesia crisis at some facilities.

It’s a multifactorial issue that’s forcing the surgical industry to look at a foundational service in a new light.”

The article outlines the challenges and what some ASC leaders are doing to adjust with out-of-the-box solutions as the situation unfolds. ASCs are looking to stay flexible in their communities despite the cost challenges. According to one ASC leader, ASCs are at a disadvantage because hospitals can afford to subsidize anesthesia services, while most ASCs can’t.

“That’s the problem in a nutshell, and it’s not going away quickly,” says Dr. Joseph Rodriquez, CRNA, Tri-City Surgery Center, Prescott, Arizona. “Based on information I’m receiving this issue will impact anesthesia care for the next two to five years.” However, looking to strike a balance, he says, “You need the right personnel, compensation and culture. Evaluate those three things, and you’ll come up with a good design.”

Mary Dale Peterson, MD, FASA, past president of the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) and current chair of ASA’s Workforce Task Force, believes national consolidation of anesthesia may have peaked. Currently, says Dr. Peterson, about a quarter of ASA’s members work in publicly traded groups, but over half are with small- and medium-sized services or academic practices. The challenges surrounding anesthesiology staffing and costs are ongoing as ASCs work to find the best solutions for this important role. OSM