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ASA Leadership Advances Interests of Anesthesiologists at White House Patient Safety and ACO Meeting

Monday, December 20, 2010

ASA President-elect Jerry Cohen, M.D., and First Vice President John Zerwas, M.D., joined other representatives from physician organizations at a closed-to-the-press White House meeting on Friday, December 17, 2010. The meeting was led by CMS Administrator Don Berwick. M.D., and Ezekiel Emmanuel M.D., Ph.D., President Obama’s Special Advisor for Health Policy at the Office of Management and Budget.

The focuses of the discussions were patient safety initiatives and Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), with forty-five minutes given for discussion of each topic. Both Dr. Cohen and Dr. Zerwas spoke to the assembled group and emphasized the role anesthesiologists can play in each of these important issue areas.

“As part of my remarks to the group I stressed that anesthesiologists are well known for being at the forefront of improving patient safety, including recognition from Dr. Berwick himself in other venues,” said Dr. Cohen.  “I stressed that the reason anesthesiologists have now reached six sigma safety status is because of data-driven quality improvements to delivering care. While the government is incentivizing the adoption and meaningful use of Electronic Health Records (EHRs), current regulations are actually hindering the ability of anesthesiologists to acquire the technology needed to improve patient safety because they do not allow anesthesiologists to meet the meaningful use requirements. EHR regulations need a substantial tweak to allow anesthesiologists the opportunity to continue improving patient safety. I also offered that we can help CMS achieve better quality outcomes, but that they must improve the rule,” Dr. Cohen added.

“My comments centered on the role of anesthesiologists in the creation of ACO’s,” said Dr. Zerwas.  “We have a unique opportunity to lead because we care for patients through the entire peri-operative period, from admission through discharge. Eighty percent of the hospital costs come during the peri-operative period and anesthesiologists, who consistently manage the care of patients during this period, have the greatest opportunity to improve outcomes and lower costs.” As regulations covering ACOs and other delivery system reforms are written, the unique role of the anesthesiologist must be considered if improvements to patient care and cost reduction are to be fully realized," Zerwas added. 

“We were pleased that ASA was invited to participate in these important discussions; however, we recognize that much work remains to be done,” said Drs. Cohen and Zerwas.  “As the Administration continues its work on areas impacting physicians, we will continue our efforts to make sure that anesthesiology’s leadership role in patient safety and health care quality continues to be recognized.” 

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