Growth in the Number of ASCs Offers Cost Savings and Improved Access

ALEXANDRIA, VA, January 7, 2013 — The growth of Ambulatory Surgical Centers (ASCs) in communities throughout the United States has the potential to significantly cut medical costs while also providing a more convenient patient experience, according to study results published in the most recent issue of The American Journal of Gastroenterology. In fact, the research reveals that the growth of community-based ASCs can save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars through Medicare alone over the next four years.

"The report conclusively shows not only that surgical care provided inside ASCs is vital to improving the well-being of patients, but also that ASCs can save taxpayers millions of dollars by making our Medicare system more cost-efficient," says ASCA Chief Executive Officer William Prentice. "As policymakers struggle to find ways to cut costs and improve access, they should view ASCs as one solution to the rising cost of health care. They should take advantage of these savings, putting policies in place that expand opportunities for patients to take advantage of the top-quality, patient-focused care that ASCs provide."

The study also makes clear that, contrary to the suggestions of some, ASCs do not drive up the demand for medical care. In fact, except in the case of colonoscopies, which national health officials are encouraging more patients to obtain, no growth in the total number of procedures being performed was observed as the number of ASCs increased. Other specific findings in the study include:

  • For common procedures such as cataract and arthroscopy, there is no increased utilization as a result of ASC growth;

  • ASCs now perform more than 60% of all cataract procedures and 30% to 40% of other outpatient surgeries; and

  • Several earlier studies that examined trends in ASC growth and overall demand for services have significant limitations that restrict the ability to apply those findings in expanded ways.

ASCs are a natural byproduct of innovations in surgical care—they offer the same surgical care that used to require more lengthy and expensive inpatient care. According to the study, as health care costs have risen, patients have increasingly turned to ASCs to obtain the outpatient surgical procedures, like arthroscopy and colonoscopies, that they need.

The findings, conclude the study’s authors, suggest that “ASCs could play an important role in moving to a health-care system that offers greater value by producing high-quality care at lower cost.” A full report on the study, which was conducted by the prestigious health economics and policy analysis firm KNG Health Consulting, can be found here.

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About ASCs: ASCs are an integral part of the health care system, providing critical access to surgical and diagnostic care, including preventive services. As essential Medicare providers of surgical and cancer screening services, ASCs perform more than 40 percent of Medicare colonoscopies.

About the Ambulatory Surgery Center Association (ASCA): ASCA is working to raise awareness of the important role that ASCs play in the US health care system and the high-quality, cost-effective care that ASCs provide. For more about ASCA, go to www.ascassociation.org.