Ambulatory Surgery Centers (ASC) – Facts

Washington Ambulatory Surgery Center Association

Ambulatory surgery centers – commonly referred to as “ASCs” – are highly regulated healthcare facilities focused on providing same-day surgical care, including diagnostic and preventive procedures. ASCs are an integral and well-established part of Washington’s healthcare delivery system, providing a more convenient alternative to hospital-based outpatient departments (HOPDs) with a strong record of efficient, high-quality care and positive patient outcomes.

The ASC model was developed in 1970. Steady growth in the number of ASCs and the number of surgical procedures performed in the outpatient setting has continued since. This shift toward outpatient surgical procedures has accelerated due to advancements in medical practice and technology, which have reduced the necessity for overnight hospital stays.

ASCs Are Cost-effective

– The nation’s healthcare costs are reduced by more than $38 billion per year due to the availability of ASCs as an appropriate setting for outpatient surgical procedures. This cost reduction is driven by the fact that, in general, ASC prices are dramatically lower than HOPD prices for the same procedure in all markets, regardless of the payor. More than $5 billion of that cost reduction accrues to patients through lower coinsurance and deductible payments.

The Medicare price differential for common outpatient services delivered in an ASC versus an HOPD is dramatic. On average, Medicare reimburses ASCs at 53 percent of the rate it reimburses HOPDs for the same procedure. This payment differentiation reduced the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ costs by more than $7 billion between 2007 and 2011.

A recent study found that the lower cost of care in ASCs relative to HOPDs saves employers and consumers tens of billions of dollars a year. For the commercially insured population in the nation, an estimated $37.8 billion is saved annually by using ASCs.

ASCs Are Convenient and Efficient

Specializing in providing outpatient surgical services, ASC deliver excellent care conveniently and efficiently. In the ASC setting, physicians are able to schedule procedures more expediently, assemble teams of specially trained and highly skilled staff, ensure that the equipment and supplies being used are best suited to their techniques, and design facilities tailored to their specialties and to the specific needs of their patients. Accordingly, ASCs minimize frustrations such as scheduling delays, limited operating room availability, slow operating room turnover, and challenges in obtaining new equipment due to hospital budgets and policies. For patients, this translates into easier scheduling, shorter waiting times, and more convenient locations.

ASCs Are Highly Regulated

ASCs are highly regulated. The safety and quality of care offered in ASCs is evaluated by independent observers through three separate processes: state licensure, Medicare certification and voluntary accreditation. For more information on regulation of ASCs, visit the WASCA Resources page.