Increasing the value of time reduces the lost economic opportunity of caring for surgeries of longer-than-average times

Amr E. Abouleish, Donald S. Prough, Charles W. Whitten, Lydia A. Conlay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Anesthesiology groups that provide care for surgical procedures of longer-than-average duration are economically disadvantaged by both increased staffing costs and reduced revenue. Under the current billing system, anesthesia time is valued the same regardless of the total case duration. In this study, we evaluated the effect on four academic anesthesiology departments of two hypothetical scenarios by changing the anesthesia care billing system to make more valuable either 1) all time units or 2) just second-hour and subsequent time units. From the four departments, case-specific data (anesthesia Current Procedural Terminology code and minutes of care) were collected for all anesthesia cases billed for 1 yr. Basic units were determined from the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) relative value guide. The average time for each case was defined as the average anesthesia time for that specific Current Procedural Terminology code, as published by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The actual total ASA units per hour (tASA/h) was determined by adding all the basic units and time units and dividing by hours of anesthesia care (minutes of anesthesia care divided by 60). We then calculated a hypothetical CMS tASA/h for each group by substituting the CMS average time for each anesthesia procedure time for the actual time reported by each group and using 15-min time units. For each group, the Actual (Act) tASA/h and CMS tASA/h were calculated for both options-changing the interval for all time units or only for second and subsequent hours. Intervals were 15,12,10,7, 6, or 5 min. When changing all time units, Act tASA/h and CMS tASA/h were never equal for all groups. The two productivity measures became approximately equal if only time units after the first hour were changed to 6- to 7-min intervals. When changes were applied only to the Act tASA/h (with CMS tASA/h remaining at 15-min intervals), at the 12-min interval either option resulted in a similar or higher Act tASA/h than CMS tASA/h. Both options increase the value of time and help compensate for the lost economic opportunity of longer-than-average surgical durations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1737-1742
Number of pages6
JournalAnesthesia and analgesia
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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