Ambulatory Surgery Center Association Faults Kaiser Health News and USA Today for Sensationalism and

Ambulatory Surgery Center Association Faults Kaiser Health News and USA Today for Sensationalism and Misrepresentation of Safety and Quality in Ambulatory Surgery Centers

ALEXANDRIA, VA, MARCH 2, 2018—The leadership of the Ambulatory Surgery Center Association (ASCA), the country’s leading representative and advocate of ambulatory surgery centers, today sharply rebuked both Kaiser Health News (KHN) and USA Today for their March 2, 2018, report about outpatient surgery, “As Surgery Centers Boom, Patients Are Paying With Their Lives,” by Christina Jewett and Mark Alesia.

“KHN and USA Today have done a terrible disservice to their readers in their article about ambulatory surgery centers by failing to accurately and responsibly report the high-quality, high-value outcomes occurring in ambulatory surgery centers today,” said William Prentice, chief executive officer of ASCA. “By focusing their story on a relatively small number of tragic errors, while ignoring the overwhelming beneficial outcomes found in ASCs, they have created a false and misleading narrative about the safety and efficacy of outpatient surgery.”

The story focuses on approximately 260 adverse events that are alleged to have occurred as a result of care in ASCs over the past five years but fails to note that over that time ASCs safely performed more than 200 million procedures. By not putting the number of adverse events into context, this article misleads readers into thinking that ASCs have more adverse events than other sites of service, when they actually have fewer. The implication that ASCs somehow pose a higher level of risk to the patients they serve is false and unsupported by both data and the medical literature. 

Rebecca Craig, RN, MBA, and the chief executive officer of Harmony Surgery Center, LLC and Peak Surgical Management, LLC in Fort Collins, Colorado, says, “As health care professionals dedicated to helping patients get well, the doctors, nurses and other health professionals in ambulatory surgery centers share in the loss and regret that accompanies any adverse medical event, regardless of the cause. The stories these reporters tell are indeed tragic and will no doubt be deeply concerning to readers. Unfortunately, the article fails to provide a comparison to other sites of care and make clear that medical errors occur across all sites of care, including hospitals, and typically at much higher rates than in ASCs. That is because all surgical procedures, whether they are provided in a hospital, an ASC or a physician’s office, involve some level of risk. And, while serious adverse events are rare in every setting, they are even rarer in ASCs because the model of care is based on using each patient’s health history to assure the highest probability of successful outcomes."