The rising popularity of hip arthroscopies at ambulatory surgery centers

Hip arthroscopy is a safe, effective procedure to treat hip pain. This surgery is used to diagnose problems that otherwise may damage the labrum, articular cartilage or other soft tissues in the hip joint.

With hip arthroscopy, patients can address hip pain, a major problem for millions of Americans. Recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Center for Health Statistics data indicates approximately 7 percent of American adults are dealing with hip pain. However, thanks to the availability of hip arthroscopies at ambulatory surgery centers, those who experience hip pain may be better equipped than ever before to alleviate this issue.

There are many reasons why hip arthroscopy patients choose surgery at an ASC. These reasons include:

1. Convenience

In the past, hip arthroscopy patients often had to schedule a procedure at a hospital and wait several weeks or months before they could receive their treatment. Now, ASCs help hip arthroscopy patients quickly address their hip pain.

Many physicians are prioritizing ASCs, and for good reason. ASCs provide physicians with greater control over their hip arthroscopy practices in comparison to a hospital. These physicians can build their own surgical teams and leverage the latest equipment and supplies to achieve the best-possible hip arthroscopy treatment outcomes.

Physicians have some form of ownership in 90 percent of all ASCs, the Ambulatory Surgery Center Association states. Additionally, ASCA reports hospitals have an ownership stake in 23 percent of all ASCs, and 2 percent of all ASCS are owned and operated by hospitals. As physicians and hospitals search for ways to provide convenient care to patients, the push to perform hip arthroscopy and other surgical procedures at ASCs may continue in the years to come.

2. Cost

The United States spends twice as much per person on healthcare costs versus comparable countries, recent data from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows. Fortunately, ASCs offer a viable solution to help reduce spending on hip arthroscopy and other surgeries.

To better understand the cost savings provided by ASCs, let's consider Medicare. Medicare pays ASCs about 55 percent of the amount paid to hospitals for the same surgeries, ASCA notes. Comparatively, ASCA estimates Medicare could save $2.5 billion annually – or $25 billion over the next 10 years – if approximately half of all eligible surgeries were performed at ASCs instead of hospitals.

Patient co-pays are "significantly lower" when care is administered at ASCs. Most patients pay lower coinsurance for procedures performed at ASCs, too. This means patients could save hundreds or thousands of dollars on hip arthroscopy and other procedures if they select an ASC over a hospital for treatment.

3. Reduced risk of infection

ASCs tend to have low infection rates. Whereas hospitals treat all patients – including those with infectious diseases – ASCs are designed exclusively for surgeries. Plus, ASCs dedicate the necessary time and resources to ensure patients are protected against myriad infection risks at all times.

The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services has created stringent guidelines for patient care at ASCs. Thus, patients may be less susceptible to infection during a procedure performed at an ASC versus one administered in a hospital.

CMS mandates ASCs establish a program to identify and prevent infections, as well as maintain a sanitary surgical environment and provide regular program updates to the appropriate authorities. It requires ASCs to create procedures for early detection, control, investigation and prevention of infectious and communicable diseases in compliance with CDC recommendations.

Furthermore, CMS stipulates ASCs must be able to transfer patients to a hospital in the event of an emergency. An ASC also must have a written transfer agreement in place with a nearby hospital, and physicians who perform surgery at an ASC must be able to admit patients at this hospital.

4. Increased patient satisfaction

Whereas hospitals are large-scale institutions that usually strive to provide care to as many patients as they can, as quickly as possible, ASCs frequently take a personalized approach to treat patients. For example, ASCs provide physicians with scheduling control they are unlikely to have at a hospital. Hospital physicians may need to respond to emergencies; conversely, ASC physicians can schedule surgeries at dates and times that work well for patients. As a result, ASC physicians may be less likely to delay or reschedule surgeries due to an emergency than their hospital counterparts.

ASCs are tailored to support patients in any way possible as well. They empower physicians with the ability to innovate and lead by example to drive patient satisfaction.

A recent survey of ASC patients revealed respondents had a 92 percent satisfaction rate when they received services at ASCs, according to ASCA. The survey also showed patients cited greater personal attention, flexible scheduling and lower costs as the primary reasons for selecting an ASC over a hospital. Meanwhile, these reasons may lead many people to pursue hip arthroscopy and other surgeries at ASCs in the foreseeable future.

The bottom line on hip arthroscopies at ASCs

Hip arthroscopy is a complex surgery that involves the insertion of a small camera into the hip joint. It may be recommended if a patient experiences long-term hip pain and does not respond well to physical therapy, medications or other nonsurgical treatments.

For those who require hip arthroscopy, it may be worthwhile to consider treatment at an ASC. In addition to addressing their hip pain, hip arthroscopy at an ASC helps a patient get the support he or she needs to enjoy long-lasting treatment results.

Dr. Tigran Garabekyan, orthopedic surgeon at La Peer Health Systems

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