Today, there are well over 5000 Ambulatory Surgery Centers (ASCs) operating throughout the United States. And the number keeps rising. In large part, that growth is fueled by patient demand.
That’s because ASCs generally provide an outpatient surgery experience that’s faster, friendlier, and more convenient than would be expected from a hospital setting. This means many patients will have a viable and enticing alternative to traditional hospital care. Overall, ambulatory surgery centers can provide significant benefits for patients.
What is An Ambulatory Surgery Center?
According to experts, the expected ASC growth rate up through the year 2028 is nearly 7 percent. This means that patients can expect expanding outpatient and ASC options at least through the end of the decade.
Patients can expect most ambulatory surgery centers to deliver the following:
- Diagnostic procedures
- Preventative procedures
- Therapeutic procedures
These broad categories can then be broken down by specialty and type of surgery.
Types of Procedures Performed at Ambulatory Surgery Centers
An ASC is designed as an outpatient surgical facility. This means you’ll arrive a few minutes before your appointment, undergo your surgery, and return home the same day. Ambulatory surgery centers provide all the safety and technology of high-end hospitals, but without the overnight stay.
Some ASCs may specialize in spinal procedures or orthopedic procedures, and some areas of care are more common than others. The following is a chart illustrating how many ASCs serve the most popular specialties.
Many ASCs have multiple specialties, so these numbers do not add up to 100%. For patients, this means that you can talk to your provider about finding the right ASC to deliver your care.
What Are the Advantages of Getting Care at an ASC?
Because ASC growth is driven in large part by patient demand, it stands to reason that these outpatient surgery centers offer significant advantages over traditional hospital care, at least for many patients. Those advantages include the following:
Convenience and Speed
Hospitals are a labyrinth of hallways and paperwork (not to mention parking). An ASC offers a significantly more convenient experience from beginning to end. In part that’s because ASCs are usually smaller and more specialized. They’ve been constructed from the ground up to deliver an outpatient experience. You just walk in, check with reception, and wait–just like you would at a clinic.
Because of this, the experience at an ASC also tends to go much faster–so you return home sooner to start your recovery.
More Nurses and Staff
Because of the way they’re structured, ambulatory surgery centers typically have a higher nurse-to-patient ratio than hospitals do. This can lead to several benefits, including:
- Lower error rates
- Better communication between doctors and nurses (which leads to better care)
- Improved outcomes due to post-surgical monitoring by nurses
- Better instructions for patients–meaning patients better understand what they can do to improve their recovery and results.
Increased staff-to-patient ratios usually lead to the following benefits:
- Faster intake, so the patient spends less time waiting.
- Friendlier service
- Fewer billing or payment errors
Hospitals have to provide emergency clinical care–which means there are a variety of unknown variables when it comes to your care costs. At an ASC, however, surgeons can provide more targeted care. This means you may actually enjoy cost savings at your ASC.
For example, an inpatient knee replacement could cost as much as $30,000. But performed on an outpatient basis at an ASC, the same results can be achieved for only $19,000. In general, costs at ASCs tend to be 40% lower than similar procedures performed at a hospital.
For a wide variety of reasons, ambulatory surgery center-based care may provide better outcomes. Patients will experience:
- Fewer infections: Modern hospitals have only a 1% infection rate. That’s pretty great! But ASCs do even better, boasting a 0.1% infection rate.
- Fewer complications: Most research indicates that patients who undergo surgery at an ASC report fewer complications.
There are a number of reasons why these better outcomes occur at ASCs. For example, the infection rate may be lower because patients are exposed to fewer individuals for a smaller amount of time. This limits the possible spread of illness. The culmination of these benefits generally leads to a better overall patient experience and outcome.
How Do You Have Your Procedure Performed at an ASC?
Ambulatory surgery centers won’t be a good fit for every patient. However, as outpatient procedures become more effective, innovative, and powerful, more types of patients can be served. So if you want to have your next outpatient procedure performed at an ambulatory surgery center, talk to your care team about finding the right venue for your procedure.
If you are expecting a procedure in your future, consider the benefits of having it done at a state-of-the-art ASC like Iowa City Ambulatory Surgical Center before just heading to a hospital, you'll be glad you did!