Partnership and transparency: What CEOs should expect from anesthesia services

As healthcare continues down the path of value-based care and bundled payments continue to rise in prominence, hospital administrators are under increasing pressure to reduce costs and improve outcomes. To do so, CEOs should focus on their hospital's anesthesia services, as simple protocol improvements can often achieve major savings and improve quality of care.

The quality and consistency of a hospital's anesthesia program effects patients from neonates to adults, as well as frontline providers' success. The high cost of anesthesia also makes the service ripe for examination to ensure cost-effective efficiency.

At Becker's Hospital Review's 5th Annual CEO + CFO Roundtable on Nov. 7, John Harris, CEO, and David Leachman, MD, chief of anesthesia at Memorial Medical Center in Las Cruces, N.M., discussed their successful partnership, providing attendees with insights into what CEOs should expect from their anesthesia providers.

Regarding the widespread influence of anesthesia services on hospitals' delivery of quality care and fiscal health, Dr. Leachman said, "The practice of anesthesiology is really a web spread throughout whole hospital."

One of the key points of emphasis for Mr. Harris in working with an anesthesia partner is the importance of cooperation and collaboration. Because of anesthesia's wide-reaching influence and the strength of their partnership, Mr. Harris considers Dr. Leachman his eyes and ears in the hospital. Transparency between the CEO and the hospital's anesthesia leader is key.

"Having a leader like Dr. Leachmen, for me, has meant the difference between having a black box and having insight into what goes on in the operating room," said Mr. Harris, later adding that a CEO should have a strong rapport with the chief of anesthesia where he or she should feel comfortable heading down the operating room and the anesthesia leader should feel comfortable entering the CEO's office.

This level of transparency, according to Mr. Harris, is indicative of the kind of leadership CEOs should be looking for in their anesthesia services. Anesthesia leaders should be connectors across disciplines, working well with surgeons and nurses. They should also work with administration to determine the appropriate measures and protocols that will best serve the hospital and allow everyone to meet their goals.

Dr. Leachman cited his collaboration with Mr. Harris in the development of a model for the hospital's anesthesia services — reviewing everything from staffing to specific quality outcome goals — as just one way hospital administration helped him create a culture of success at Memorial Medical Center.

Mr. Harris described himself as having an entrepreneurial spirit and cited his focus on improving anesthesia services and managing costs for these services as a major contributor to the hospital's recent expansion in surgical capacities. According to Mr. Harris, Memorial Medical Center completes approximately 10,000 surgeries a year, increasing the number of surgeries by 20 percent year-over-year. In 2017, Mr. Harris expects the hospital will see an increase of approximately 2,500 surgeries.

According to Dr. Leachman, Memorial Medical has managed to increase the utilization of the hospital's operating rooms by 100 percent over the last year.

Mr. Harris said one of the key things CEOs might want to consider when looking to improve anesthesia services is interviewing chief of anesthesia candidates themselves before they are hired by the anesthesia services provider.

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