Revamping the patient experience with team-based anesthesia care

Anesthesia care extends far beyond the operating room and can catapult patient experiences to the next level — and leaders of ambulatory surgery centers are taking notice.

During a March webinar hosted by Becker's Hospital Review and sponsored by Sound Physicians, two leaders of Sound Physicians' anesthesia department — Phil Eichenholz, MD, chief executive officer, and Andy Guttman, MD, chief medical officer — discussed the role of a team-based approach to anesthesia for improving efficiency, effectiveness and patient experience at ASCs.

Four key takeaways:

  1. Growth in ASC cases and case complexity are outpacing growth in ASC locations. Between 2015 and 2021, ASCs saw a 35 percent growth in cases, while the number of ASCs in that period grew only 7 percent. The partial elimination of the inpatient only list by CMS, and a continuous shift of increasingly complex cases to the outpatient setting, are further adding pressure on ASCs to ensure appropriate staffing. "The implications are that ASCs will need to have the right support to drive throughput and efficiency while simultaneously providing a safe and positive patient experience," Dr. Eichenholz said. 
  2. Anesthesia should play a leadership role at ASCs. While surgeons at ASCs come and go based on caseload, anesthesiologists are a permanent fixture. As a result, anesthesiologists have a responsibility to provide consistent on-site leadership and support all stakeholders by:
    • Attracting, supporting and retaining qualified people
    • Implementing cost-effective models by ensuring the right mix of physicians and certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs)
    • Deploying evidence-based medicine to reduce variability of care
    • Driving quality and efficiency through well-designed systems and protocols
  3. Good clinical care alone is no longer a differentiator. Patients have become accustomed to delightful customer experiences in other realms of life and now expect the same from their healthcare providers. Thus, providing excellent clinical care is no longer sufficient to build brand reputation that keeps first-time patients coming back when they need additional procedures. "Most clinicians are well trained and capable of delivering high-quality care. What really differentiates one ASC from another is the patient and surgeon experience," Dr. Guttman said.
  4. Team-based anesthesia improves ASC efficiency while elevating the patient and surgeon experience. There are many things that anesthesia professionals do beyond delivering anesthesia, including pre-surgical testing, perioperative assessment, patient and surgeon support, development of evidence-based protocols and other processes and tasks that take place outside of the operating room. Delivering on these expectations depends on aligned physician and CRNA leadership, which enables every team member to contribute at the top of their license. The result is high-touch patient experiences, improved collaboration with surgeons and more efficient use of ASC resources.

As the requirements of providing anesthesia services evolve, ASCs that recognize the pivotal role of a team-based approach will be well-positioned to absorb the impending case growth while delivering comprehensive, patient-centric experiences.

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