debate over the safety of outpatient surgery centers rages on

In the not too distant past, anyone who had to undergo any type of surgical procedure would count on checking in to a local hospital at an appointed time, perhaps even packing an overnight bag if the operation was anything more than minor.

Fast forward to the present and things have changed dramatically concerning surgical procedures, as patients are now more likely to report to an ambulatory surgical center — ASC — for a matter of hours, not days.

For those unfamiliar with ASCs — or outpatient surgery centers — they are essentially freestanding structures comprised of a modern and well-appointed waiting room, a patient recovery area and multiple operating rooms equipped with all the tools needed to perform certain types of surgery.

Indeed, ASCs, often owned by hospitals or physician groups, are regularly used for everything from colonoscopies and cataract removals to oophorectomies and total knee replacements.

To show just how large of a role ASCs now play in today’s healthcare system, consider the following statistics: 1) over two-thirds of all surgical procedures performed in the U.S. now occur at these facilities and 2) 23 million procedures were performed at these facilities in 2011 alone, the most recent year for which such data is available.

Why then have surgical procedures moved out of the hospitals and into ASCs?

According to experts, the reasons are primarily financial and clinical.

Regarding the former, surgeons can make more money by performing procedures in these settings either through a shared fee arrangement with the ASC or through their own financial affiliation with the facility. Regarding the latter point, surgical advancements and other improvements in medicine have shortened patient recovery times to the point where prolonged hospitalization is no longer necessary.

All this, of course, raises the question as to whether ASCs are safe for patients, a topic we will explore in our next post …

If you’ve been seriously injured or lost a loved one due to a surgical error or other type of doctor error, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible.

Source: Kaiser Health News, “Popularity of outpatient surgery centers leads to questions about safety,” Sandra Boodman, Dec. 16, 2014

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