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Ambulatory Surgery Centers Overview

What are Ambulatory Surgery Centers?

Ambulatory Surgery Centers (ASCs) are facilities where surgeries that do not require hospital admission are performed.  They provide a cost-effective and convenient environment that may be less stressful than what many hopitals offer.  Particular ASCs may perform surgeries in a variety of specialties or dedicate their services to one specialty such as eye care.  Patients who elect surgery in an ASC arrive on the day of the procedure, have the surgery in an operatoring room, and recover under the care of the nursing staff, all without a hospital admission.


Are ASCs also known as rural health clinics, urgent care centers, or any other ambulatory care centers that provide diagnostic or primary health care?

ASCs are NOT the same as rural health clinics, urgent care centers or other ambulatory care centers that provide dagnostic or primary health care.  ASCs treat ONLY patients who have already seen a health care provider and have selected surgery as an appropriate treatment.  Physican offices are not ASCs.  ASCs must have at least one dedicated Operating Room and the equipment needed to safely perform surgery and ensure quality patient care.


How long have outpatient surgery centers been in existance?

The first ASC opened in 1970.  Today about 20 million surgeries are performed each year in the more than 5,000 surgery centers across the United States.


Does the Federal Government recognize ASCs?

Yes, since 1982 when Medicare began reimbursing ASCs they have saved the program a significant amount of money.  One study shows that in 2005 alone, ASCs saved Medicare and its beneficiaries $1.1 billion.  ASCs that receive Medicare payments must meet the program's certification criteria and receive payments only for procedures that have been approved for reimbursement by the Federal Government.  Today, Medicare beneficiaries can have more than 2,400 different procedures performed in an ASC.  Medicare beneficiaries receive approximately 30% of the care provided in ASCs.


Are outpatient surgery centers subject to regulation?

Yes, ASCs are some of the most highly regulated health care providers in the country.  Medicare has certified 85% of the ASCs and 43 states require ASCs to be licensed.  These states also specify the criteria that ASCs mus meet for lincensure.  Both states and Medicare survey ASCs regularly to verify that the established standards are being met in addition to state and federal inspections.  Many surgery centers choose to go through voluntary accreditation process conducted by their peers.  ASCs that want to demonstrate a commitment to quality can seek accreditation from one of four accrediting bodies.  All four are recognized by Medicare for their rigourous adherence to the highest standards of quality care.  All accredited ASCs must meet specific standards that are evaluated during on-site inspections.  As a result, patients visiting accredited ASCs can be assured that the centers provide the highest quality care.


What types of surgery are typically performed in outpatient surgery centers?

In 2002 the majority of procedures performed in ASCs were in either ophthalmology or gastroenterology.  Particular ASCs may perform surgeries in a variety of specialties or dedicate their services to one specialty such as eye care.  42% of ASCs specialize in a single specialty while 58% provide services in multiple specialties.


Why are ASCs a good choice?

Patient satisfaction is a hallmark of the ASC industry.  The US Department of Health and Human Services Office for the Inspector General has stated this fact.