HHS Releases New Anesthesia Rule to Protect Patients

Agency to Maintain Physician-Supervised Anesthesia Care

Jul 05, 2001, 01:00 ET from American Society of Anesthesiologists

    PARK RIDGE, Ill., July 5 /PRNewswire/ -- A new Medicare anesthesia
 services rule released today by the U.S. Department of Health and Human
 Services (HHS) restores patient safety measures that were previously stripped
 away by the Clinton administration, according to the American Society of
 Anesthesiologists (ASA).
     The new proposed rule published today in the Federal Register would
 restore the long-standing Medicare requirement that anesthesia nurses must be
 supervised by physicians.  According to ASA President Neil Swissman, M.D.,
 "For more than three years, anesthesiologists with other physicians and
 literally hundreds of thousands of older adults have fought to maintain a
 physician's involvement in safe critical care medicine that occurs before,
 during and after surgery."
     In December 1997, the Clinton administration proposed dropping the
 supervision rule.  In the waning days of his administration, President Clinton
 approved the rule, but before becoming effective, it was quickly suspended
 after President Bush was sworn into office last January.
     "The new proposed rule reflects for the most part what ASA, the medical
 community, patient advocates, senior citizens and members of Congress have
 been supporting for more than three years, that the safest possible anesthesia
 care a patient can receive is when a physician is involved in that care."
     The newly proposed Conditions of Participation that every Medicare- and
 Medicaid-approved health care facility must follow would maintain physician
 supervision of anesthesia nurses in hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers.
 State governors could opt to have facilities in the state excluded from this
 requirement, but only after meeting a set of criteria established by HHS.  A
 governor would have to:
     -- Consult with the state boards of medicine and nursing or their
        equivalents on access to and quality of anesthesia services;
     -- Demonstrate that the change is consistent with state law; and
     -- Show that the requested change is in the best interest of the citizens
        of that state.
     According to the July 5 rule, HHS's Agency for Health Research and Quality
 (AHRQ) will design and conduct a prospective patient safety study or set up a
 monitoring system that will assess patient outcomes relating to the
 involvement of nurse anesthetists.
     "Since the rule change was first proposed more than three years ago, ASA
 has advocated for a patient outcomes study," Dr. Swissman said. "We
 congratulate HHS for developing the framework for a workable compromise that
 keeps patient safety first. Any governor who might consider opting out of the
 federal supervision requirement should bear in mind the importance of waiting
 until the AHRQ study is completed."
     HHS will accept public comments on the rule until September 4 and is
 expected to release its final rule by mid-November.
     The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) represents more than
 36,000 physicians dedicated to patient safety and quality medical care.
 Founded in 1905, ASA is a scientific and educational association of
 anesthesiologists that was organized to advance the practice of anesthesiology
 and to improve the quality of care of the anesthetized patient.  It is the
 largest organization of anesthesiologists in the world.
                     MAKE YOUR OPINION COUNT -  Click Here

SOURCE American Society of Anesthesiologists