Quantifying Net Staffing Costs Due to Longer-than-average Surgical Case Durations

Amr E. Abouleish, Franklin Dexter, Charles W. Whitten, Jeffery R. Zavaleta, Donald S. Prough

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Background: Anesthesiology departments incur staffing costs that are not covered by revenue because the operating room (OR) time allocation and case scheduling are not done to maximize OR efficiency and because surgical durations are longer than average. The purpose of this article is to demonstrate a method to quantify net anesthesia staffing costs due to longer-than-average surgical durations and evaluate the factors that influence staffing costs. Methods: Data collected from two anesthesiology departments in academic hospitals for 1 yr included date of surgery, time that patients entered the OR, time that patients exited the OR, surgical service, and the Current Procedural Terminology code for the primary surgical procedure. Anesthesia care performed outside the main surgical suite and services not billed with American Society of Anesthesiologists units were excluded. National average surgical durations were determined from the Current Procedural Terminology code from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' database. Actual surgical durations were then used to determine staffing solutions to maximize OR efficiency; national average surgical durations were then used to determine a second solution. The difference in staffing costs between these two staffing solutions represented the staffing costs attributable to longer surgical durations. Costs were converted to dollar amounts using compensation values reported in a national compensation survey. The differences in revenue were determined by applying conversion factors to the differences in surgical durations. The annual net cost attributable to longer surgical durations equaled the staffing costs minus the revenue produced by longer durations. Net staffing costs were estimated for two hospitals using median staffing compensation and median payer mix. Net staffing costs were then recalculated by varying the parameters (conversion factors, limits on differences between actual and average surgical duration, levels of compensation, surgical service size of OR allocation). Results: Using the median compensation of staff and an average conversion factor, the net annual staffing costs attributable to longer surgical durations were $672,100 for the first hospital. However, if staff members were highly compensated and the payer mix was unfavorable, the net staffing costs were $1,688,000. Reducing the difference between actual and average duration resulted in lower staffing costs. Net staffing costs were less in a second hospital studied that had many low-volume surgical services. Conclusions: Longer-than-average surgical durations can increase net staffing costs for anesthesiology groups. The increase is dependent on factors such as staffing compensation and payer mix.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)403-412
Number of pages10
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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