Use and Associated Spending for Anesthesiologist-Administered Services in Minor Hand Surgery

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Abstract

Background:

Evidence is lacking to support the use of specialized anesthesia providers in minor surgical operations for patients without medical necessity. The authors sought to estimate the extent of potentially discretionary service use (anesthesiologist-administered anesthesia services among low-risk patients).

Methods:

The authors performed a retrospective claims analysis using the Truven MarketScan Database to estimate the prevalence and cost of anesthesiologist-administered anesthesia services provided to patients undergoing minor hand surgery (i.e., carpal tunnel release, trigger finger release, or de Quervain release) from 2010 to 2015. A predictive probability model was created to estimate patient risk status. The authors examined the relationship between patient risk status and anesthesia use using multivariable regression models.

Results:

Of 441,579 eligible procedures, 352,779 (80 percent) involved anesthesiologist-administered anesthesia services. The total proportion of estimated anesthesiologist-administered anesthesia use in low-risk patients who did not need anesthesiologist support declined over the study period (from 69.7 percent in 2010 to 65.8 percent in 2015). Although total payments for these services remained steady between 2010 and 2014, the average payment per procedure increased regardless of procedure type (from $376.8 in 2010 to $427.9 in 2015 for a carpal tunnel release operation). Approximately 83.7 percent of payments ($133 million) to anesthesia providers is credited to services in low-risk patients.

Conclusions:

Anesthesiologist-administered anesthesia services are commonly rendered to low-risk surgical patients. Existing health care reform efforts do not adequately address discretionary services that can be a targeted area for cost saving. It is important to consider the implications of potentially discretionary use of specialized anesthesia providers, particularly with the advancement of bundled payment models.

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