A method to compare costs of drugs and supplies among anesthesia providers: A simple statistical method to reduce variations in cost due to variations in casemix

Franklin Dexter, David A. Lubarsky, Bill C. Gilbert, Christine Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

22 Scopus citations


Background: Comparison of costs among anesthesia providers using 'cost per case' does not adjust for variations in casemix (such as the type of procedure and patient condition). The authors propose an alternative method for comparing costs using the American Society of Anesthesiologists' Relative Value Scale (ASARVS) system, which incorporates basic units (for the procedure), modifier units (for the patient's physical condition), 'other' units (such as for the placement of invasive monitors), and time units (proportional to the case duration). Methods: Data were obtained from a series of 3,340 anesthetics performed at a tertiary hospital. Administered and discarded drug, supply, and fluid costs were used. Results: Costs expressed as dollars per ASARVS unit had 54% less variability than costs expressed as dollars per case (P < 0.0001). Pearson correlations between demographic variables and cost per ASARVS unit ranged from -0.10 to 0.13. Total (e.g., quarterly) costs for simulated sets of cases were predicted within 0.0 ± 2.3% by multiplying (1) their sum of units and (2) a like set of case's sum of costs divided by sum of units. Conclusions: Costs of anesthetic supplies and drugs of a case were more accurately reported as 'cost per unit' than as 'cost per case.' This method of calculating the cost of anesthetic drugs and supplies has several applications, including (1) comparison of costs among anesthesia providers and (2) benchmarking costs among hospitals and anesthesia groups. By design, anesthesia providers' time is quantified by their ASARVS units. Together anesthesia costs (personnel, supplies, and drugs) are better reported as 'cost per unit' than as 'cost per case'.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1350-1356
Number of pages7
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 25 1998



  • Cost control
  • Financial management
  • Management information systems
  • Medical practice management
  • Relative value scales

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine

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