The ASC trend that defined 2022

High-acuity procedures shifting to the ASC setting continued in 2022, according to VMG Health's "ASCs in 2022: A Year in Review" report released Jan. 26.

According to the report, cardiology, orthopedics and higher-acuity spine procedures moved to ASCs in 2022, with orthopedics being the more common specialty served by ASCs in 2022. 

These high-acuity cases give ASCs the opportunity to make more money per case, and ASC chains are taking advantage of the opportunities. By the end of the third quarter, orthopedic and spine procedures made up 20 percent of ASC chain United Surgical Partners International's volume. 

In an Oct. 20 earnings call, Saum Sutaria, MD, CEO of Tenet Healthcare, USPI's parent company, said the chain is doubling down on its high-acuity growth strategy. He cited growth at an ASC in Tennessee, where the center boosted revenue by 46 percent by replacing high-volume, low-acuity procedures with high-acuity orthopedic cases.

UnitedHealth Group's Optum, the parent company of Deerfield, Ill.-based ASC chain SCA Health, is also looking to higher-acuity surgical procedures to lead growth, CFO John Rex said in an Oct. 14 earnings call

Smaller ASCs are also seeing the benefit as CMS adds procedures to the ASC-approved list. 

"As CMS allows more procedures to be performed in centers, it gives centers the option to be open for more procedures," Catherine Retzbach, BSN, RN, director of ASC operations at Marlton, N.J.-based Virtua Health, told Becker's in October. "Cardiology and spine procedures offer patients more options to have procedures be performed in a high-quality, low-cost environment."

But amid skyrocketing operating costs and tightening margins, ASCs need to be strategic. Adding service lines in an unstable economy is not always the best option, and ASC leaders need to weigh the costs before committing to the investment, Ms. Retzbach said.

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