Anesthesia & Analgesia: August 2015
Authors: Flood, Pamela MD et al
BACKGROUND: Variability in the mean durations of labor analgesia for vaginal delivery among hospitals is unknown. Such differences in means among hospitals would influence appropriate equitable fee-for-service payment to US anesthesia groups. Equitable payment is the foundational principle of relative value unit payment, which, for anesthesia in the United States, means use of the American Society of Anesthesiologist’s Relative Value Guide.
METHODS: We analyzed data from the American Society of Anesthesiologists’ Anesthesia Quality Institute to test whether there are large differences in mean durations of labor analgesia for vaginal delivery among US hospitals. We choose the statistical methodology for that analysis using detailed data from 2 individual hospitals. Analyses of the means were performed for the 172 hospitals reporting a total of at least 200 durations; having no greater than 5.0% of durations 1.0 hour or less; and at least 5 four-week periods each having a mean of at least one epidural every couple of days. The 172 hospitals provided for n = 5671 combinations of hospital and 4-week period and 551,707 labor epidurals, with an overall mean duration of 6.12 hours (SE, 0.001 hour).
RESULTS: 55.2% of the 172 hospitals had mean durations of labor analgesia for vaginal delivery that each differed (P < 0.001) from the overall mean. Among those 55.2% were the 9.9% of hospitals with means <=5.12 hours. Those mean durations on the low end ranged from 2.68 (SE, 0.17) to 5.10 (SE, 0.07) hours. Also, among the 55.2% were the 12.2% of hospitals with means >=7.12 hours. Those mean durations at the high end ranged from 7.13 (SE, 0.08) to 12.03 (SE, 0.23) hours. The heterogeneity in the mean durations among hospitals would have been greater had the inclusion criteria not been applied.
CONCLUSIONS: Our results show that the number of labor epidurals alone is not a valid measure to quantify obstetrical anesthesia productivity. In addition, payment to US anesthesia groups for labor analgesia based solely on the number of labor epidurals initiated is not equitable. Previous work showed lack of validity and equality of payment based on face-to-face time with the patient (i.e., like a surgical anesthetic). The use of base and time units, with one time unit per hour, is a suitable payment system.