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Readers push back on 'sensationalized' story misrepresenting ASC safety — 5 insights

Kaiser Health News and USA Today published a comprehensive story on outpatient surgery center safety March 2 that has been met with the scorn of the ASC industry for not providing needed context.

The latest comes from KHN readers who submitted multiple letters to the editor seeking clarity on the story.

Here's what you should know.

1. KHN published three rebukes to the story in their letters to the editor section.

2. James Lozada, MD — a Chicago-based anesthesiologist and journalist — submitted a letter saying although surgery and anesthesia do have known risks, the data available does not support KHN's claim that ASCs are more dangerous than hospitals.

3. Ambulatory Surgery Center Association CEO William Prentice offered several remarks on ASC safety. He said the article "focused on a relatively small number of adverse events, while ignoring the more than 100 million successful procedures that ASCs provided during the same time frame."

Mr. Prentice also noted the lack of empirical evidence that surgery centers pose a risk to patients, calling the highlighted adverse events "tragic anomalies."

Mr. Prentice listed four other facts on ASCs in his letter:

  • All ASCs have the medical equipment and training to respond to emergencies, and ASCs have established relationships with hospitals in the event of a needed case transfer
  • Procedures performed in ASCs were all approved and deemed safe to be performed in an ASC or outpatient setting
  • ASCs are dedicated to healthcare quality reporting across all sites, and the industry as a whole is working to improve that reporting
  • ASCs perform procedures at a greater cost savings to patients than at other sites of service

4. New York City-based Montefiore Hutchinson Campus' Medical Director Curtis Choice, MD, also submitted a letter chiding the article. As a representative of one of the largest ASCs in the New York metropolitan area, Dr. Choice said he was disappointed in the misrepresentation of surgery center safety.

5. Two people submitted tweets to KHN in support of the article. One said the surgery center atmosphere was similar to a "cattle call," while the other cited a personal opinion of wanting to go "where mistakes can be corrected."

More articles on improving performance:
3 ways ASCs can capitalize on the transition to outpatient care
Drugmaker paid roughly $550K to lobby for ASC, outpatient reimbursement status
What do orthopedic surgeons think about the decision to remove TKA from the Medicare Inpatient Only list?

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