A new study says ambulatory centers perform surgery more efficiently than hospitals and could allow the nation’s health care providers to keep pace with demand.
The study, published in the May issue of the journal Health Affairs, was authored by health economists Elizabeth Munnich of the University of Louisville and Stephen Parente of the University of Minnesota.
The two analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for 52,000 surgical visits at 437 facilities over four years, a news release said.
They found that surgery center patients spent 25 percent less time undergoing outpatient surgery than hospital patients. And they inferred that patient costs were $363 to $1,000 lower than at hospitals while their health care was just as satisfactory, the release said.
Demand for outpatient surgery has soared over the past three decades, partly because of advances in anesthesia and laparoscopic techniques, the release said. In 2011, more than 60 percent of all U.S. surgeries were outpatient procedures compared to 19 percent in 1981.
Munnich and Parente predict in their study that the number of outpatient surgeries in hospitals alone will continue to climb by 8 percent to 16 percent each year through 2021.
That’s important because theCongressional Budget Office estimates that 25 million more Americans will have health insurance in the next two years as a result of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
“Ambulatory surgery centers are a high-quality, lower-cost substitute for hospitals as venues for outpatient surgery,” Munnich said in the release. “Their increased use may generate substantial cost savings, helping achieve the ACA’s goals of reducing the cost and improving the quality of health care.”