Why ASCs are a staple in healthcare after 50 years — 7 industry leaders weigh in

The first ASC was established in Phoenix on Feb. 12, 1970, according to the Ambulatory Surgery Center Association. Today, there are about 5,800 ASCs throughout the U.S.

To commemorate the milestone, Becker's ASC Review asked industry leaders to reflect on how ASCs have evolved in the past 50 years, predict what the future holds and share highlights from their careers. This is the second installment of the series.

Question: Why do you think ASCs have stuck around for so long?

Note: Responses were lightly edited for style and clarity.

Cheryl Garmon, DNP, RN. Director of Heaton Laser & Surgery Center (Tyler, Texas): I believe ASCs are such a benefit to our healthcare industry. Economically, the cost of care is lower than [that of] a hospital system provider. This is evident by payer index rates, as well as subscribers' copayments as a percentage of allowable charges. When comparing hospital rates and ASC rates, the hospital rate is significantly higher. Also, the efficiency and ease of access is typically more customer-friendly in the ASC setting than in a major hospital setting.

Michael Chmell, MD. Medical director of OrthoIllinois Surgery Center (Rockford): ASCs have "stuck around" because they represent the safest and most cost-effective method of delivering surgical care in the U.S. Outcomes and patient satisfaction exceed any other offering by any healthcare system. I am confident that as these facts continue to be known more widely by the media, public, payers and lawmakers, ASCs in the future will continue to lead the way in the surgical care of patients and only become even more important in the healthcare market.

Yousif A-Rahim, MD, PhD. Chief medical officer of Covenant Physician Partners (Nashville, Tenn.): ASCs have lower overhead costs than hospitals, resulting in savings that are passed on to patients. Payers are driving the shift in procedures from high-cost settings (hospitals and hospital outpatient departments) to the more cost-effective ASCs to reduce costs and increase value. For example, joint replacement in an HOPD costs an average of $40,000 versus $18,000 in an ASC. The same is true for cataract surgery, with an average cost of $1,745 in an HOPD and $976 in an ASC.

Nicholas Grosso, MD. President and orthopedic surgeon at The Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics (Bethesda, Md.): ASCs have become a permanent fixture in the healthcare field because they benefit patients, physicians and payers. My patients appreciate the convenience the outpatient setting offers. Surgeries can be done quickly, and patients can recover at home. Physicians prefer performing surgeries in the outpatient setting for a variety of reasons, including overall safety, a lower risk of infection and a decrease in the cost of care. Payers also incentivize outpatient surgery because the overall cost of care decreases.

Scott Jackson. Senior director of Henry Schein Medical's ASC business: Great patient care at a lower cost sums it up. ASCs will continue to thrive because they are on the right side of healthcare. They are driving great patient outcomes while at the same time saving our healthcare system billions of dollars a year. That is a highly sustainable model.

John Beck. Chief solutions officer for NextGen Healthcare: ASCs have stood the test of time because they offer a more relaxed, friendly environment for both the patient and family. Consumer demand has been a large driver for ASCs and will continue to drive ASC growth into the future.

Michael Roub. Managing partner of Inflection 360. Healthcare providers continually face two major pressures: compensation and time. ASCs have been tremendously beneficial in both regards. The efficiency of ASCs as compared to hospital settings is dramatic, particularly when considering elements such as OR turnover times, patient wait times and appropriate staffing levels. For insurance companies, there has been a tremendous benefit in lower facility fees. Finally, for patients, it's the more comfortable setting and efficient experience.

Want to share your thoughts with us? Email Angie Stewart: astewart@beckershealthcare.com.

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