Huge Cost Savings and Other Benefits Boost Ambulatory Surgery Center Growth

March 6, 2023
doctors and surgeon in operating room
Ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) have been providing healthcare services to patients for more than 50 years. The facilities, which offer same-day surgical care including diagnostic and preventive procedures, are growing in popularity.  
“ASCs have transformed the outpatient experience for millions of Americans by providing them with a more convenient alternative to hospital-based outpatient procedures—and done so with a strong track record of quality care and positive patient outcomes,” notes the Ambulatory Surgery Center Association (ASCA).


There are now more than 6,000 ASCs, up from about 5,000 in 2010, and the market is expected to see continued growth. One reason is that ASCs are recognized as being less expensive than hospitals for surgeries—a cost advantage they’ve been delivering for many years.
Surgeries performed in ASCs are typically less expensive than the same surgeries within a hospital outpatient department. That’s because ASCs have lower overhead costs compared to hospitals.

“Ambulatory surgical centers are often 45%-60% less expensive than hospitals, which benefits patients and taxpayers equally,” according to Ambula, which provides healthcare technology. “And yet, arguably more important than fair costs is the fact the quality of healthcare provided by these surgical centers is equal to, if not often higher than, that which is offered by hospitals.” 
More than 80% of surgeries are now performed in an outpatient setting, according to ASCA. One benefit of ASCs is that, based on research, they have lower infection rates than hospitals. Data also shows that for same-day surgeries, adult patients have more favorable experiences in an ASC than a hospital. Safety and comfort play a significant role in surgeries and the patient’s experience.


With ASCs performing an estimated 30 million procedures each year, the savings they provide compared to hospital settings can scale into the billions of dollars. Utilizing an ASC results in lower costs for patients, insurers and Medicare.
ASCA notes that patients choosing ASCs save Medicare $4.2 billion annually, while overall one-year savings across healthcare spending is $42.2 billion.
“If just half of the eligible surgical procedures moved from hospital outpatient departments to ASCs, Medicare would save an additional $2.5 billion a year or $25 billion over the next 10 years,” says ASCA. “Likewise, Medicaid and other insurers benefit from lower prices for services performed in the ASC setting.”
There is a big cost disparity between what Medicare pays ASCs versus hospitals. Even for the same surgeries and services, Medicare pays ASCs only 55% of the amount it pays to hospital outpatient departments, according to ASCA. For example, Medicare pays hospitals $1,671 for outpatient cataract surgery while paying ASCs $964 for the same surgery.


Industry experts predict that ASCs will see continued growth for the foreseeable future. In fact, research from Fortunate Business Insights estimates that the overall ASC market for the U.S. will reach $59 billion by 2028, up from $37 billion in 2021. This represents a compound annual growth rate of 6.9% from 2022 to 2028.
“In particular, spine and orthopedic procedures are expected to see substantial growth in ASC share of volume as medical practice advances pave the way for more complex, higher-acuity cases to be handled away from the hospital campus,” according to Outpatient Surgery.

Non-acute organizations that want to expand their ASC practice or enter the ASC market can start by working with their group purchasing organization (GPO). A GPO can help organizations procure everything needed for an ASC, including products and equipment, surgery expertise, business strategy planning, facility remodeling and more, at industry-leading pricing. 


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