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Are Ambulatory Surgical Centers as Safe as Hospitals?

Are Ambulatory Surgical Centers as Safe as Hospitals?

Ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs) have emerged as a modern solution to healthcare needs, but the pressing question remains: Are ASCs as safe as hospitals?


What is an Ambulatory Surgical Center?

Ambulatory surgical centers, also referred to as outpatient surgery centers, are healthcare facilities designed for patients undergoing minor or low-risk surgical procedures. ASCs offer a streamlined experience – patients can arrive on the day of their procedure, receive treatment in fully equipped operating rooms, and then recover in the comfort of their homes, eliminating the need for hospital admission or overnight care.

ASCs are an attractive choice for a variety of common surgeries, including cataract surgery, colonoscopies, tonsillectomies, gallbladder removals, and hernia repairs, among others.

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Looking at Safety

ASCs are highly regarded for their safety standards. ASCs adhere to rigorous safety protocols to ensure the well-being of their patients. What sets ASCs apart is the expertise of their physicians, who are often specialists in their respective fields. These specialists routinely perform minimally invasive and low-risk surgeries, contributing to a high level of safety and efficiency.

A recent study presented at the 2021 annual meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists provided valuable insights into the safety of ASCs. The study utilized data from the Nationwide Ambulatory Surgery Sample (NAss) database, comprising 9 million encounters and 11.8 million procedures. The research revealed exceedingly low mortality rates associated with common ambulatory surgical procedures, although safety levels did vary depending on the type of procedure.


Additional Factors Ensuring Safety in ASCs

ASCs prioritize patient safety through various measures:

Infection Control: ASCs maintain low infection rates by adhering to strict guidelines set by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). These guidelines include infection prevention programs, maintaining sanitary environments, and reporting outcomes to appropriate authorities.

Emergency Preparedness: ASCs are required to have effective procedures for transferring patients to a hospital in the event of emergencies. They must establish written guidelines for ambulance services and the transfer of medical information. Additionally, ASCs either need a written transfer agreement with a local hospital or ensure that all physicians performing surgery have admitting privileges at a designated hospital.

Patient-Doctor Interaction: In ASCs, patients enjoy direct access and interaction with their doctors. This allows patients to bring concerns directly to the physician, who possesses in-depth knowledge about each patient's case. This personalized care reduces the risk of miscommunication and also results in higher patient satisfaction. In fact, patients report a 92% satisfaction rating for both care and service received from ASCs.

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Final Thoughts

Ambulatory surgical centers offer a safe and efficient option for patients undergoing low-risk surgeries. They significantly reduce waiting times, simplify scheduling, and prioritize the delivery of high-quality care. This ensures that patients have the best surgical experience possible.

Moreover, ASCs play a crucial role in alleviating the burden on busy hospitals, allowing them to focus their resources on more complex cases. As healthcare continues to evolve, ASCs remain an indispensable choice for individuals in need of minor surgery.

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