The Future of Anesthesia – What to expect in Anesthesiology
This year has been full of unknowns. With the COVID-19 pandemic, national shutdowns, changes in taxes, potential stimulus packages, elections, and a constantly changing healthcare system, the year 2020 has brought on a large amount of uncertainty in many areas of life.
For those in medical fields, the transformations have been extreme. The medical industry in general has seen a wide variety of change this year, and anesthesiology is no different. We’ve been hearing the question a lot lately – What about anesthesia? What is happening in the future of anesthesiology?
Where are we headed? What will happen next? In this article we will cover topics related to the Future of Anesthesiology. We will cover a few things that we know will happen, and offer our recommendations based on those items. In the midst of the doom-and-gloom attitude that fills so much of the online and tv space, we are here to offer you good news and encouragement regarding the future of anesthesiology.
Anesthesia Future: What We Know – You will still be here.
If you are reading this article, most likely you are in the anesthesia industry, you are still working and your practice is up and running. Many anesthesia providers saw revenues decline with the shutdown of elective surgeries, but those specialties have reopened and the cases that were put off in the 2nd and 3rd quarter are filling up schedules in the 4th quarter. While your total revenue might be down for the year, and you experienced some intimidating months, remind yourself that you and your practice have made it through the year 2020 and should be encouraged by the strength and endurance that you have shown through these tumultuous times. Your practice had a solid enough foundation to make it through one of the biggest economic crises our nation has seen in a long time. Take a moment to reflect, breathe, and smile.
Our recommendation: View the future from a survivor’s perspective. Use a positive lens. You are coming out of a huge storm. You and your anesthesia practice may have some bumps and bruises, but your resilience has served your group well.
Anesthesia Future: What We Know – Elective Surgeries Will Continue
Elective surgeries make up the majority of anesthesiologists’ revenue. Can you picture a world where 5-10 years from now, there are no elective surgeries? We can’t. Elective surgeries are here to stay, and where there are elective surgeries, there are anesthesia providers. We have received a lot of questions from group practice owners regarding if they should opt for a hospital buy out because of the uncertainty they have faced this year. Our answer– no! While many seek the immediate comfort of a buy-out, there are many benefits to remaining independent. You can read more about those benefits here.
Our recommendation: While this year has not felt very secure, there is a lot of long-term job security in anesthesia. If you are an independent group, stay strong. You do not need to cave to a buy out or put your practice up for sale.
Anesthesia Future: What We Know – Anesthesia cannot be replaced by telemedicine.
While much of the medical industry is shifting to tele-health and telemedicine, anesthesia is not. Surgeons cannot perform surgery over a computer screen, they must be done in person. And again, where there is a surgery, there is an anesthesia provider. Your practice might be shifting to telemedicine consults or online team meetings, but your job inherently requires you to be there in person to administer the anesthesia. While many industries are able to conduct meetings over a video conference, anesthesia cannot be performed through a video conference.
Our recommendation: Remain flexible with new policies and structure changes within your hospital or group as parts might shift to online/telemedicine. Trust that the major components of your job will not make the switch.
Anesthesia Future: What We Know – Revenue is Important –Anesthesia Billing is Constantly Changing
The financial aspects of anesthesiology are constantly changing, this year especially. There have been tax incentives, tax changes, PPP programs, coding changes, exemptions, and more. How is your practice keeping track of all of these changes? Now is the time to closely examine if your business is structured for success. Look at the weaknesses that you’ve observed, and turn those into strengths.
Two questions to ask:
Question 1: If billing is being handled by an in-house billing team, are you spending the time necessary to keep up with all of these rule changes? If you have out sourced your billing, is your billing company specialized in anesthesia billing, or are they a general medical biller with hundreds of specialties to keep track of? It’s vital that your billers and coders are deeply experienced in anesthesia billing, rules and regulations. They must be dedicated to stay on the cutting edge of all the evolutions within anesthesia billing. If not, then you are risking not only loss of revenue, but also an increase in liability.
Question 2: Does your billing process maximize your anesthesia revenue? After experiencing the financial impact of a pandemic and a shut down, it is important to ensure your business is maximizing its revenue. Many anesthesia practices think that their revenue collection is efficient, simply because they outsource their billing. Did you know that amongst medical billing companies, their collection rates can vary by more than 20%? Does your practice collect 80% of its collectable revenue or is your practice collecting 95% of its collectible revenue? In a year where your group revenue is extremely high, you may not pay attention to these details. These and other data points like net collection ratio are very important to know and understand. What would 15% more income mean for you, both in a high revenue year, and in a pandemic year? The anesthesia practices that have the strongest billing and collections are going to remain the most stable in economic uncertainty.
Our recommendation: Partner with an anesthesia specific billing company. Ensure the billing company you partner with stays on top of the constantly changing anesthesia billing codes and regulations, and is maximizing your revenue. Don’t be a practice who only collects the easy 80% of collectable revenue – and then wishes you had that extra 15% of revenue during times of uncertainty. If you currently do your billing in house, we recommend exploring the options of outsourcing your billing. If you are already out-sourcing, make sure you understand the performance being provided to your practice.