For much of history up to this point, surgical procedures of all types were performed in the same basic location: at a hospital. The first Ambulatory Surgery Centers opened in the early 1970s and within the last ten years, however, there has been a dramatic spike in the number of patients choosing ambulatory surgery center for procedures performed in an outpatient environment.
This is a trend that shows absolutely no signs of slowing down anytime soon, and with good reason: receiving surgery at an ambulatory surgical center instead of a hospital brings with it a number of unique advantages that cannot be ignored.
The Cost Factor
One of the major benefits ambulatory surgical centers provide is cost effectiveness. These types of facilities simply receive less of their total payments from sources like Medicare and Medicaid than the average hospital does. According to one study, about 37% of total payments come from Medicare and Medicaid in an ASC, versus about 61% for your average hospital.
This means that not only are ASCs able to provide better access to lower-priced procedures, but they also have a lower cost structure in general.
Another study from Orthopedic Reviews estimated that in 2016 alone, the average cost savings from having a procedure done in an ASC was between 17.6% to 57.6%, compared to having the exact same procedure done in a hospital environment. When you consider that you’re receiving care that is just as good and has just as many long-term benefits in an ASC and in a hospital, the cost factor alone is enough to convince most people that this is the right move to make.
A Matter of Convenience
Another one of the major benefits of having surgery performed at an ASC versus a more traditional hospital environment can be summed up in one simple word: convenience. This is not to say that ASCs are “lower stakes” or “slower paced” environments, it’s just that by their nature they have the ability to focus on a wider range of procedures in a far more effective and personal way.
In a traditional ASC environment, physicians are in a much better position to not only schedule procedures in a way that is more convenient for patients, but also assemble teams of highly qualified staff members, guarantee that all the best equipment and all the latest techniques are being used, and can even design their facilities to meet the needs of the socialites they have chosen to serve – rather than in the “one size fits all” approach that most hospitals are forced to take.
Remember that part of the reason why the first ASC was established in the United States in the first place was because physicians were looking for a high quality, low cost alternative to inpatient hospital care. For the last decade, the industry has proven over and over again that they were able to find it.
A Cleaner and Safer Alternative
Finally, another one of the most critical benefits of receiving surgery outside of a hospital setting has to do with the cleanliness and safety of ASCs. According to one study that was recently conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2010 approximately 8.95 out of 1,000 patients developed some type of surgical site infection in a hospital. When you break that number down into ASC patients, however, that number drops to just 4.84 out of every 1,000 patients.
A large part of this has to do with the fact that ambulatory surgical centers are traditionally smaller than hospitals, which means that staff and other administrators simply have far better control over their environment. Within the context of this discussion, both numbers are quite low. But if you were worried about whether you would develop an SSI that required some type of inpatient treatment within 30 days after receiving your surgery procedure, the fact that the likelihood is literally cut in half in an ambulatory surgical center is obviously worth considering when making your decision.