The Future of Anesthesia Technology
The anesthesiologist is typically the first person to enter the operating room in the morning. There is a long list of checks that need to be performed before patients can be brought into the room. There is a complicated mess of tubes and wires that surround patients. This leads to tech frustrations that go beyond the O.R. to affect multiple facets of the hospital.
Surgery-related services account for about 68% of hospital income, and this subsidizes some other areas that have a net loss of income. One minute in the O.R. can cost $147. This all exists in the context of patients that are sick and the stakes are high in the O.R. environment. O.R. technology needs to come into the 21st Century as many other technologies have. There should not be so many poorly-implemented designs with unnecessarily tangled tubes and wires.
The technology in the O.R. will inevitably address these concerns, and when this happens, the jobs of anesthesiologists will change. Open-loop systems will begin to change into closed-loop systems, which means there are fewer intermediary steps between finding problems and solutions.
A closed-loop system is self-regulating and adjustable. This type of system could allow anesthesiologists to set parameters, and the changes could be dealt with in an automated fashion. For example, if the patient’s blood pressure changes, the machine could automatically administer the needed solution to fix the problem while it is monitored by a person. Current research is looking into how to develop these types of systems that could speed up systems and provide greater success rates. This new technology could allow the field to evolve.
Anesthesiologists spend a great deal of time educating themselves in human pathophysiology in order to provide intervention for whatever a patient needs during the extremely stressful conditions of an operation. When the technology changes in the future with interconnected devices and closed-loop systems, anesthesiologists will be able to focus more of their attention on patients and less time fussing over complicated machines. More emphasis can be placed on problem solving, procedures, patient safety and physiology. Another possibility with increased technology is an ability to take care of multiple patients simultaneously.
In the future, there will be more care team anesthesia and certified nurses who perform the job. Hospitals are finding ways to use less expensive labor. Physicians are seen as a premium cost for performing this role, so it is expected that more Certified Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) will be in demand in the coming years.
With greater automation does not come greater risk. For example, the autopilot feature of commercial jets made the industry safer and more efficient. The average age of patients is increasing, which is placing greater demands on the medical field. When technology advances, the new challenges for anesthesiologists can be more effectively met.