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Bridging the Gap in Anesthesia Care for Rural Hospitals

October 18, 2021

Rural hospitals are the cornerstone of thousands of communities and towns across the country. Not only do they provide vital healthcare services to nearly 20% of the population, but they are also an economic hub that benefits the community and surrounding businesses. Despite this, rural hospital closures have been increasing in recent years, with nearly 138 rural hospitals closing since 2010.

One avenue to help hospitals stay in business is to implement an efficient and effective anesthesia program. A high performing anesthesia program can provide your hospital with the ability to generate additional profit by doing more surgeries.

However, it is challenging to build an anesthesia program from scratch. Recruitment, regulatory changes, and building the necessary infrastructure to support an anesthesia program present unique challenges, especially for rural facilities. Fortunately, a third-party anesthesia service can help relieve many of the challenges and burdens you’ll likely encounter.

We’ve broken down some of the biggest challenges that impact access to anesthesia care in rural hospitals and outlined how a tailored, third-party approach can bridge the gap.

3 Challenges Impacting Access to Anesthesia Care in Rural Hospitals

1. Rural Hospitals Tend to Have Modest Budgets

Low patient volume and high fixed costs leave many rural hospitals operating on modest budgets and razor thin margins. As a result, you may not be able to afford sufficient anesthesia staff that enables you to offer high margin surgical services like orthopedic or cardiac surgery.

Additionally, operating with a modest budget leaves little room for error and necessitates having an anesthesia program that is efficient and effective. Inefficiency, or misalignment of goals and business plans, can lead to unnecessary expenses. This can result in an anesthesia program becoming more of a financial burden than a highly effective service that lifts up a profitable surgery program.

A flexible delivery model provided by a third-party anesthesia partner can provide your hospital with a solution that operates within your budget and can scale to address any surgical demand. The expertise and experience Premier Anesthesia brings to the table can streamline services, improve efficiency, and reduce unnecessary expenses.

2. Physician Recruitment and Retention Challenges

As physician shortages continue to grow across the country, hospitals are having to invest more money and resources into recruitment and retention efforts. As nearly 56% of anesthesiologists are over the age of 55, shortages in anesthesiologists are only expected to grow in the coming years, requiring even more investment and resources.

Recruiting anesthesiologists requires a considerable time commitment. Currently, the average timeline to fill an anesthesiology position is 4 months. Delays in recruitment can postpone the launch of an anesthesiology program and cost thousands of dollars in missed opportunities.

A third-party anesthesiology partner provides extensive resources and a national provider database to quickly identify candidates and streamline the recruitment process. This enables your hospital to focus time, resources, and money elsewhere and enables the program to launch without delay.

3. Staying Current on Regulatory and Reimbursement Changes

Rural hospitals rely heavily upon government payers like Medicare to stay afloat. Much like inflation, healthcare costs don’t remain stagnant and the cost of treating patients will ultimately continue to rise. Which is why it’s vitally important for rural hospitals to continuously monitor and negotiate reimbursement contracts to remain in business.

However, successfully negotiating private payer contracts is easier said than done.

Staying current on regulatory changes and contract negotiations requires dedicated employees to closely monitor contract end dates and identify where you can maximize reimbursement. For rural hospitals with limited staff and onsite resources, the inability to dedicate personnel to regular contract negotiations means potentially leaving thousands of dollars on the table.

Third-party anesthesia partners provide a dedicated team of experts to monitor regulatory changes and negotiate contracts on behalf of your hospital. By staying abreast of regulatory changes and new negotiation opportunities, a third-party anesthesia partner can earn rural hospitals thousands of dollars in additional revenue.

Uniquely Tailored Anesthesia Services

Anesthesia care is an important service that supports profitable surgical services, however, the challenges of building the right anesthesia program can be difficult due to the challenges unique to smaller and rural hospitals including modest budgets, recruitment challenges and regulatory changes.

A uniquely tailored anesthesia service can address these challenges.

Anesthesia should not be a one-size-fit-all solution, especial for rural hospitals. The needs of one hospital are vastly different from one to another. That’s why it’s important to identify an anesthesia service that is flexible and customized to your hospital.

Hospital executives can solve these problems if they have more control over the variables that throttle back their surgical revenues. Premier Anesthesia’s anesthesia program puts you in control and helps to manage the anesthesia program that supports your strategic goals and decisions.

Premier Anesthesia is a national anesthesia management company that can be a true strategic partner to create a solution that works for you. If any of these pain points speak to your current challenges as a rural hospital, please reach out to us today and let’s explore ways to do it better.