Hospitals lose millions from cancelled surgeries

Patient no-shows and cancellations on the day of surgery are costing hospitals millions of dollars each year, Anesthesiology News reported.

Researchers at Tulane University Medical Center found that 6.7 percent of scheduled elective outpatient surgeries were cancelled in 2009, totaling almost $1 million in lost revenue for that year. Since surgeries account for almost 60 percent of the hospital's revenue, such losses can significantly hurt the bottom line, researchers noted.

"People need to recognize that there is a cost to cancelled surgeries that is not insignificant," said study author Sabrina Bent, clinical associate professor of anesthesiology and director of research at the Tulane University Department of Anesthesia, who presented the findings at this year's American Society of Anesthesiologists Conference on Practice Management.

According to researchers, surgeries for patients who did not have a preoperative clinic visit with the anesthesiologist were more likely to get cancelled (11 percent) than those preceded by a clinic visit (less than 4 percent).

Therefore, Bent advised hospitals to make sure all patients receive a preoperative visit, as well the appropriate preoperative instructions for the day of the procedure.

Researchers also found that the cost of cancellation varies with specialty so hospitals should first focus on the high-revenue subspecialties, neurosurgery and urology, which incur the highest loss per case--$5,962 and $4,758, respectively.

"Maybe you cannot fix everything right away, but maybe there is something you can do to improve the efficiency and lack of cancellations in specialized groups," Bent told Anesthesiology News.

Such strategies would be well-suited for teaching hospitals, which, according to a study last summer in the journal Anesthesia & Analgesia, have cancellation rates 2.23 times higher than mid- to small-size community hospitals.

For more:
- read the Anesthesiology News article
- here's the A&A study abstract