Modern medicine has significantly reduced the frequency and duration of hospital visits for patients, including more outpatient, same-day surgical procedures. While hospitals do offer these procedures, many patients today opt for an outpatient surgery center, also known as an ambulatory surgery center (ASC).
According to a July 2017 report from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), about 70 percent of all surgeries in the U.S. occur in an outpatient, or ambulatory, setting. Because such outpatient surgery centers are increasingly common, it's critical to consider the following points while choosing the best option for your individual treatment and financial needs.
Why Outpatient Surgery Is In
Since the early 1980s, medical and technological advancements have spurred the growth of outpatient surgery in the United States, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) February 2017 report on ambulatory surgery data. General improvements in anesthesia and analgesics have enhanced doctors' ability to manage patients' pain during such procedures.
But researchers have also developed more minimally invasive and noninvasive procedures that doctors can easily and safely perform in offices outside of hospitals. Outpatient surgery centers offer these same-day surgical procedures, including diagnostic and preventative care. These centers can save money and improve the efficiency and convenience of care for patients and health care providers alike.
Common Procedures at an Outpatient Surgery Center
Per the CDC outpatient surgery report, 70 percent of the 48.3 million outpatient surgical procedures performed in 2010 involved five primary clinical categories:
- Digestive system (21 percent): Endoscopies of large and small intestines, including colonoscopies, and endoscopic polypectomy of the large intestine
- Eye (16 percent): Lens extraction, lens insertion for cataracts, and operations on eyelids
- Musculoskeletal system (15 percent): Operations on muscles, tendons, fascia, and bursa
- Integumentary system (9 percent): Excision of lesions, skin, or subcutaneous tissue
- Nervous system (9 percent): Spinal injections, such as for pain relief
Not all procedures can take place in an outpatient setting and may require a hospital stay regardless of your preference. Also, you'll need to speak with your doctor to ensure you qualify as a candidate for outpatient surgery. Qualifying factors may vary, from your body weight, current vital signs, and secondary conditions, to the support system you'll have during your recovery at home.
5 Factors to Consider When Selecting an Outpatient Surgery Center
If you receive your doctor's approval for outpatient surgery, the next step is to determine which center will suit your health care and financial needs.
1. Treatment Offerings
Each center is equipped with its own set of staff, equipment, and supplies, which can produce varying lists of the services these outpatient surgery centers offer. Ensure the center you're considering can perform the procedure you need before wasting time with any other details.
If more than one center offers the procedures you need, location could be another deciding factor. Certain centers may or may not be practical for you depending on where you live, your transportation options, and your post-operative support system.
3. Surgeon and Staff
Not only should the surgeon(s) and staff in question be equipped to handle the procedure you need. Ideally, your surgeon should also be at least average or better than average in terms of caseload volume, complication rate, and patient satisfaction for your procedure or clinical category.
4. Center Accreditation
Whether the center is attached to a hospital system, determine whether that outpatient surgery center has any and all necessary accreditations. Those might include general accreditations or more specific accreditations depending on that center's clinical specialties.
5. Preoperative Care
The more prepared you are for your surgery, the better chances you have for a positive outcome and fast recovery following your procedure. This can include:
- Physical preparation, such as certain exercises
- Mental preparation, such as anxiety and pain reduction techniques
- Reducing certain unhealthy factors that can create complications, such as smoking or uncontrolled blood sugar
- Reorganization of your home for easier access
The best quality centers offer educational materials and classes for you and your post-operative caretaker regarding this "prehab" care.
Thanks to modern health care technology, routine surgical procedures don't have to be as costly in terms of time, money, or quality of life. Speak with your doctor about whether you and your procedure qualify for an outpatient surgery center visit, and ease your worries about these treatment and diagnostic options.