How Are Patients Choosing Ambulatory Surgery Centers?

When it comes time for planning an outpatient surgery, there are more options than ever before.

Traditionally, all surgeries were performed in the hospital, but in the past 50 years, patients are feeling more empowered to choose ambulatory surgery centers, or ASCs for short, for their next outpatient surgery or procedure.

According to a new U.S. News & World Report online survey, patient experience at the surgery center facility was one of the top key factors in selecting an ASC, along with quality of the procedure and doctor’s education, training and experience performing the procedure.

[Read: What Is an Ambulatory Surgery Center, ASC?]

What Are Ambulatory Surgery Centers?

Ambulatory surgery centers are freestanding outpatient facilities that provide same-day surgical, diagnostic and preventive procedures. In the U.S., there are approximately 6,223 Medicare-certified surgery centers — up from 5,000 centers in 2010.

“Some of the most common procedures ASCs perform are colonoscopies and cataract surgeries,” says Bill Prentice, CEO of Ambulatory Surgery Center Association (ASCA). “As advances have been made in less invasive surgical techniques and pain control, the list of procedures ASCs can perform safely and comfortably for their patients has grown to include everything from simpler surgeries like the insertion of ear tubes, biopsies and tonsillectomies to more complex procedures, like total joint replacements, spine surgeries and several cardiology procedures.”

Common surgical, diagnostic and screening procedures performed at an ambulatory surgery center include:

Hip replacements

Knee replacements

— Rotator cuff repairs

— Diagnostic endoscopies

Colonoscopies and colon cancer screenings

— Fracture or dislocation treatments

— Retinal procedures

— Corrective eye surgery, including LASIK

Kidney stone removal

— Prostate biopsy

[READ: Types of Doctors and Medical Specialists: Which One Should You See?]

Patient Satisfaction Is Key

One of the primary ways ambulatory surgery centers strive to set themselves apart from their traditional hospital counterparts is with its high patient satisfaction rates. They often provide easier scheduling, shorter wait times, faster procedures and more personalized care to make the patient experience more pleasant than navigating a large, busy health system.

“Patient satisfaction is extremely important to ASCs and is a hallmark of the industry,” says Rebecca Craig, CEO of Harmony Surgery Center in Fort Collins, Colorado, which provides care to more than 22,000 patients a year. “Many ASCs spend a lot of time surveying patients to collect feedback on how to continuously enhance care and improve the overall experience.”

In fact, maintaining high patient satisfaction plays such a critical role in how individuals choose an ASC that many of these facilities survey their patients using the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems Outpatient and Ambulatory Surgery Survey (OAS CAHPS). The most recent survey compared ASCs and hospital outpatient departments based on four categories that patients valued: facilities and staff, communication about your procedure, patients’ rating of the facility and patients recommending the facility. In 2025, it will be mandatory for ASCs participating with Medicare to utilize this survey and submit data to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

According to the OAS CAHPS survey results, patients’ rating of the facility for ASCs was 95.1%, while hospitals was 93.9%.

But positive patient reviews and personal recommendations from doctors, friends and family can influence an individual’s choice of an ASC. In the same survey, 94.8% of patients reported that they would recommend ASCs to family and friends, which closely beat hospitals, which received a score of 93%.

Firsthand accounts of other patients’ experiences and positive word of mouth from friends and family members provide reassurance and confidence in the ASC’s quality of care, cost, convenience, customer service and overall experience with the doctors and staff — helping people make informed decisions about where they go for their important health care needs.

[READ 8 Tips for Choosing an Orthopedic Surgeon]

Other Factors to Consider When Choosing an ASC

According to U.S. News’s survey, health insurance coverage and your expected out-of-pocket costs are also key components to consider before your surgery or procedure.

Health insurance plans may offer better coverage or lower out-of-pocket costs for procedures done at ASCs, making it a cost-effective and convenient option for patients.

“We are seeing more patients with high deductibles, so ASCs can offer a high-quality, cost-effective alternative to hospital outpatient departments,” Craig says.

As the number of ambulatory surgery centers nationwide continues to grow, it’s important for patients to remember that not all facilities are created equal. Reviewing a surgery center’s accreditation is an additional step individuals can take to ensure they have a positive experience.

“Achieving accreditation shows a health care facility’s commitment to high-quality care,” Craig explains.

The credentialing requirements and process for a doctor to obtain privileges at an ASC are identical to a hospital. Federal and state laws along with accrediting bodies mandate the credentialing information that must be collected by ASCs and hospitals for a physician or allied health provider to obtain privileges.

Bottom Line

Ambulatory surgery centers are becoming increasingly common for outpatient procedures, largely because they offer greater convenience and high-quality procedures to traditional hospital outpatient departments. This is often reflected in patient satisfaction scores that slightly favor the patient experience at ASCs versus hospitals.

Patient satisfaction is extremely crucial to the success of ASCs, which are investing more time and resources to gather feedback from patients. The smaller, more personalized environment of ASCs can lead to higher patient satisfaction. When you are planning an outpatient procedure, take into consideration recommendations from your doctors and what others are saying about their experience at ASCs in your community.

More from U.S. News

15 Questions to Ask Your Orthopedic Surgeon During Your First Appointment

Reasons You Should Call Off a Surgery

Torn Rotator Cuff: Signs, Symptoms and How to Heal

How Are Patients Choosing Ambulatory Surgery Centers? originally appeared on

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