Why cardiology is ASCs' next big thing

ASCs have seen a massive opportunity for growth in cardiology in the last few years, as payers and CMS see financial gain in performing these procedures in the ASC setting. 

Cardiology procedures received the highest estimated Medicare payment increases in 2021, making it the fastest growing ASC specialty, according to Avanza's "2022 Key ASC Benchmarks and Industry Figures" report. Additionally, a 2020 Bain & Co. report projected that by the mid-2020s, 33 percent of cardiology procedures will be performed in ASCs, a 23 percent increase from 2018. 

ASC leaders are seeing this play out on the policy side, with CMS adding cardiac procedures to the ASC-covered list. 

"In the near future we will see more orthopedic, spine and cardiac procedures in the ASC setting," Cherise Brown, administrator of Andover (Kan.) Surgery Center, told Becker's. "CMS recently added several cardiac procedures to the ASC covered procedure list, including diagnostic and interventional coronary procedures, peripheral vascular interventions, and placement of pacemakers and defibrillators."

ASC chains are also seeing this opportunity. This year, Brentwood, Tenn.-based Surgery Partners inked a deal with ValueHealth to expand access to high-value surgical care. Alongside a value-based focus, the partnership will also try to capitalize on cardiology's migration to the outpatient setting. 

In June, Atlas Healthcare Partners, a company that manages and develops ASCs, partnered with MedAxiom to create a joint venture specializing in improving cardiovascular care in surgery centers. The company will collaborate with health systems and physicians to improve patient outcomes, patient experience and access to cardiovascular care. 

Single-specialty cardiology ASCs, like the new Cardiovascular Experts of Central Pennsylvania ASC in Camp Hill and the Pacific Cardiovascular Surgical Center in Salem, Ore., are increasing in popularity. Existing ASCs are adding stationary catheterization labs to their centers or higher-acuity procedures such as cardiac rhythm management to their portfolios. 

Payers are also taking note. In July, Aetna dropped its policy to not cover cardiac PET/CT scans following a joint letter from the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology and the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging.

"I do see cardiology as a trend there as well," Randy Reynolds, senior vice president of field operations for HealthCrest Surgical Partners in Edmond, Okla., told Becker's last year. "Cardiology is probably the biggest thing coming forth, especially with all the codes that CMS has added to the list."

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