Anesthesia Quality Improvement, and How to Measure It

anesthesia equipment to illustrate anesthesia quality improvement
May 12, 2023 0 Comments

As a hospital leader, it’s part of your job to oversee any ways you can improve the quality of care you provide to your patients. Your survival and the patient’s depend on it! So – when it comes to anesthesia, quality improvement should be at the forefront of your priorities – keeping your patients safe, comfortable, and pain-free during procedures.

Besides, improving the quality of your anesthesia processes can directly translate to better patient outcomes, increased patient satisfaction, and referrals. A single complaint on social media can ruin your reputation.

In this post, we’ll explore

  • what “quality” during the anesthesia process looks like to your patient and
  • steps you can take to ensure anesthesia quality improvement in your hospital.

Let’s dive in!

Your Patient’s Experience of the Anesthesia Process

If we were to approach a hospital patient before their operation, we imagine their wish-list would look something like this:

  • I want anesthesia delivered by a skilled and experienced anesthesiologist who carefully monitors my vital signs during the operation so the anesthesia is effective in minimizing my pain and discomfort, before and after.
  • What would also help me is clear communication with the healthcare professionals so they inform me about the type of anesthesia they’ll use and any potential side effects or risks associated with it. I know I have to give informed consent for anesthesia, but I like to know the whole picture.
  • As a wish-list extra, I’d like the anesthesia to wear off smoothly without complications so I can recover as quickly as possible.

Those sound perfectly reasonable expectations – something we all aim for.

But sometimes it’s easier to see where improvements can be made when we look at possibly unwelcome outcomes.

When the Anesthesia Quality Process Falls Short

Some patients may feel their expectations were not met. So, before we look at ways to audit anesthesia quality and bring about improvements, it’s worth considering when and how outcomes can fall short.

Before Surgery

A patient might feel anxious or uncertain if the anesthesia process and risks are not explained in advance.

If the anesthesiologist doesn’t find time to review the patient’s medical history or ask them about allergies or previous anesthesia experience, they can be justifiably annoyed at having a higher risk of complications or adverse reactions.

During Surgery

If the anesthesia is not administered properly, the patient might wake up during the operation, feel pain or discomfort, or at least be aware of what’s happening around them. You need to employ the highest-skilled professionals in your operating theatre.

After Surgery

If the anesthesia wears off too quickly or too slowly, your patient can experience nausea, dizziness, or other side effects that delay their recovery.

And if they don’t receive appropriate pain relief medication, they might have significant pain or discomfort during their recovery process.

Any one of these issues can cause your patient to complain in person or on social media. Your reputation is then at stake.

So what can be done to improve and guarantee the total anesthesia process?

Obviously you can outsource to an anesthesia group that can take over responsibility for your anesthesia department. That’s one option, and one that many hospitals are opting for.

Regardless of having your own in-house team of employed anesthetists or outsourcing to a highly competent group, you can also audit patients’ experience in ways that can lead to quality improvement in anesthesia.

Ways to Audit for Anesthesia Quality Improvement

  • Patient Surveys: You can conduct surveys of patients who’ve undergone anesthesia to gather feedback on their experience. These surveys can ask questions about
    • communication with healthcare providers,
    • pain management,
    • side effects, and
    • overall satisfaction.
  • Medical Records: Your staff can review medical records to track anesthesia-related complications, such as allergic reactions or anesthesia awareness. They can also review medication orders and administration records to ensure patients are receiving appropriate doses of anesthesia and pain medication. Keeping a paper (or digital) trail will be essential for addressing complaints.
  • Peer Review: Anesthesiologists can review each other’s cases to identify any areas for improvement or to provide feedback on best practices. This can help to ensure that all anesthesia providers are following the same standard of care. When you outsource to an anesthesia service, this is standard practice within the group to maintain their excellence.
  • Quality Improvement Programs: You can establish an anesthesia quality improvement program to focus on improving patient outcomes related to anesthesia. It’s a positive way to be patient-centric. These programs can include
    • regular data review and analysis,
    • staff education and training, and
    • process improvement initiatives to address areas of concern.

In a digital age, however, the obvious question is: What software is there for recording this information?

Software Solutions to Record and Track Anesthesia Quality Improvement Data

Anesthesia Information Management Systems (AIMS)

This may be part of a patient’s electronic health record (EHR) or a group of separate tools, or a stand-alone app. But the medical record it generates can prove useful in auditing and governance within your anesthesia quality improvement drive.

Electronic Health Record (EHR) System

As mentioned, your EHR may already include anesthesia-related information. You can also customize your EHR to include extra anesthesia information you wish to record, such as anesthesia start and stop times, medications administered, and vital signs.

Quality Improvement Software

There are many quality improvement software solutions you can use to track and analyze data related to anesthesia quality and outcomes. These tools can help you to

  • identify areas for improvement and
  • track progress over time.

An example you probably know about is the Quality Payment Program. In this program, CMS seeks to improve Medicare by helping clinicians focus on caring for their patients rather than filling out paperwork. Affordable QR is a CMS-approved Anesthesia Registry.

This registry collects data on anesthesia procedures from participating anesthesia practices. In this way, it has an overarching view of anesthesia improvement possibilities.

It enables you to identify areas for improvement in your own anesthesia services by offering

  • benchmarking data,
  • risk-adjusted analysis, and
  • other performance metrics.

You can then track improvement progress over time. Contact them here if you’d like to take advantage of these benefits.

Affordable QR is also used to report anesthesia quality measures to regulatory agencies and payers, which can help you demonstrate the quality of your anesthesia care. This enhances your reputation and brings business to your doors.

Meridian Medical Solutions Can Help With Anesthesia Quality Improvement

At Meridian Medical Solutions, we offer you a complete anesthesiology solution – providing highest-quality anesthesiology talent to ensure your department is top class, but also simplifying your department and improving services and satisfaction.

There are many ways we stand out from the crowd of professional anesthesia services, and our diverse model provides for all markets and all settings. Why not discover what Meridian can bring to you facility by contacting us today? Let’s talk!

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Wondering what a good anesthesia process looks like to your patients? Read about auditing anesthesia quality improvement in your hospital.