Background: Anesthesiologists providing care during off hours (ie, weekends or holidays, or cases started during the evening or late afternoon) are more likely to care for patients at greater risk of sustaining major adverse events than when they work during regular hours (eg, Monday through Friday, from 7:00 AM to 2:59 PM). We consider the logical inconsistency of using subspecialty teams during regular hours but not during weekends or evenings.
Methods: We analyzed data from the Anesthesia Quality Institute's National Anesthesia Clinical Outcomes Registry (NACOR). Among the hospitals in the United States, we estimated the average number of common types of anesthesia procedures (ie, diversity measured as inverse of Herfindahl index), and the average difference in the number of common procedures between 2 off-hours periods (regular hours versus weekends, and regular hours versus evenings). We also used NACOR data to estimate the average similarity in the distributions of procedures between regular hours and weekends and between regular hours and evenings in US facilities. Results are reported as mean ± standard error of the mean among 399 facilities nationwide with weekend cases.
Results: The distributions of common procedures were moderately similar (ie, not large, <.8) between regular hours and evenings (similarity index .59 ± .01) and between regular hours and weekends (similarity index, .55 ± .02). For most facilities, the number of common procedures differed by <5 procedures between regular hours and evenings (74.4% of facilities, P < .0001) and between regular hours and weekends (64.7% of facilities, P < .0001). The average number of common procedures was 13.59 ± .12 for regular hours, 13.12 ± .13 for evenings, and 9.43 ± .13 for weekends. The pairwise differences by facility were .13 ± .07 procedures (P = .090) between regular hours and evenings and 3.37 ± .12 procedures (P < .0001) between regular hours and weekends. In contrast, the differences were -5.18 ± .12 and 7.59 ± .13, respectively, when calculated using nationally pooled data. This was because the numbers of common procedures were 32.23 ± .05, 37.41 ± .11, and 24.64 ± .12 for regular hours, evenings, and weekends, respectively (ie, >2x the number of common procedures calculated by facility).
Conclusions: The numbers of procedures commonly performed at most facilities are fewer in number than those that are commonly performed nationally. Thus, decisions on anesthesia specialization should be based on quantitative analysis of local data rather than national recommendations using pooled data. By facility, the number of different procedures that take place during regular hours and off hours (diversity) is essentially the same, but there is only moderate similarity in the procedures performed. Thus, at many facilities, anesthesiologists who work principally within a single specialty during regular work hours will likely not have substantial contemporary experience with many procedures performed during off hours.