Objectives: To calculate the public health impact and economic benefit of using ancillary health care professionals for routine postoperative care.
Background: The need for specialty surgical care far exceeds its supply, particularly in weight loss surgery. Bariatric surgery is cost-effective and the only effective long-term weight loss strategy for morbidly obese patients. Without clinically appropriate task shifting, surgeons, hospitals, and untreated patients incur a high opportunity cost.
Methods: Visit schedules, time per visit, and revenues were obtained from bariatric centers of excellence. Case-specific surgeon fees were derived from published Current Procedural Terminology data. The novel Microsoft Excel model was allowed to run until a steady state was evident (status quo). This model was compared with one in which the surgeon participates in follow-up visits beyond 3 months only if there is a complication (task shifting). Changes in operative capacity and national quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) were calculated.
Results: In the status quo model, per capita surgical volume capacity equilibrates at 7 surgical procedures per week, with 27% of the surgeon's time dedicated to routine long-term follow-up visits. Task shifting increases operative capacity by 38%, resulting in 143,000 to 882,000 QALYs gained annually. Per surgeon, task shifting achieves an annual increase of 95 to 588 QALYs, $5 million in facility revenue, 48 cases of cure of obstructive sleep apnea, 44 cases of remission of type 2 diabetes mellitus, and 35 cases of cure of hypertension.
Conclusions: Optimal resource allocation through task shifting is economically appealing and can achieve dramatic public health benefit by increasing access to specialty surgery.
Access to surgical care is limited by the availability of surgeons. Optimal utilization of ancillary health professionals in clinically appropriate situations may increase surgical capacity by 38%. The Roux-en-Y gastric bypass is described and quantified, suggesting an attributable annual increase of 882,000 quality-adjusted life years.
*Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA
†Stanford Graduate School of Business, Stanford, CA; and
‡Section of Minimally Invasive Surgery, Division of General Surgery, Stanford Department of Surgery, Stanford, CA.
Reprints: Eric J. Leroux, MD, MBA, Stanford University School of Medicine, 300 Pasteur Dr, Stanford, CA 94305. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclosure: The authors declare no conflicts of interest and no other funding disclosures.