Hospitals Lose Millions Annually on Canceled Elective Outpatient Surgery

Hospitals are losing millions of revenue from canceled outpatient surgeries, according to a study conducted by researchers at Tulane University Medical Center.

The researchers found that in 2009, 327 of 4,876 scheduled elective outpatient surgeries were cancelled, costing the hospital nearly $1 million that year alone. Because surgeries add up to 60 percent of the hospital's revenue, the loss had a major effect on the hospital's profitability.

Most of the cost from canceled surgery comes from "opportunity costs," such as the ability to swap in other procedures that would make up for lost revenue. Hospitals cancel surgeries for various reasons: More than 30 percent of patients in the study failed to show up for surgery for reasons including transportation problems, confusion over the date of the procedure or forgetting about the appointment.

Nearly one-third of procedures were canceled because of hospital equipment issues, lack of beds or other hospital-based problems.

"People need to recognize that there is a cost to canceled surgeries that is not insignificant," said Sabrina Bent, MD, MS, clinical associate professor of anesthesiology, director of research at the Tulane University Department of Anesthesia and study author.

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