ASA: Patients demand physicians provide anesthesia care

A guest column by the American Society of Anesthesiologists, exclusive to KevinMD.com.

ASA: Patients demand physicians provide anesthesia careWhen it comes to receiving anesthesia or pain-related care, patients overwhelmingly demand the care of a physician anesthesiologist over other non-physician providers. In a recent survey conducted by AMA, 70 percent of public respondents believed only a physician should administer and monitor anesthesia levels before and after surgery, while 80 percent believed only a physician should perform pain management techniques like spinal injections.

These findings clearly demonstrate the public’s opinion on which type of anesthesia provider they want overseeing their care. It is important to note that anesthesia providers work in a valuable team setting, called the Anesthesia Care Team model consisting of anesthesiologists who lead the team along with nurse anesthetists and anesthesiologist assistants who provide support. The AMA’s findings are further supported with the recent ASA Vital Health survey findings in which nearly 80 percent of survey respondents wanted an anesthesiologist to administer the anesthesia for their surgeries.

The public, patients really, have made their voices clear in the results of these two surveys- they want anesthesiologist leadership in their anesthetic care. While nurse anesthetists are able to perform the technical aspects in the administration of anesthesia, they simply do not have the education, training or skills to fully manage patients, respond to medical complications or advance the science of anesthesiology. Anesthesiologists have at least eight years of post-graduate education and training, while nurse anesthetists have only two to three years.

Due to the advanced training of anesthesiologists, they have been at the forefront of patient safety and quality initiatives throughout the history of the specialty. These advances have led to a dramatic decrease in anesthesia-related deaths over the past 25 years, from two deaths per 10,000 anesthetics administered to one death per 200,000 to 300,000 anesthetics administered.

Anesthesiologists continue to work toward further patient safety advances and also are working to universally extend their roles outside of the operating room as the physicians responsible for pre- and post-operative assessments, diagnostics and pain management, as well as blood transfusion and respiratory therapies.

John F. Dombrowski is on the Board of Directors of the American Society of Anesthesiologists.

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