Health Aff 33:764-769.
University of Louisville, Louisville, KY, USA; University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA
During the past thirty years outpatient surgery has become an increasingly important part of medical care in the United States. The number of outpatient procedures has risen dramatically since 1981, and the majority of surgeries performed in the United States now take place in outpatient settings. Using data on procedure length, we show that ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) provide a lower-cost alternative to hospitals as venues for outpatient surgeries. On average, procedures performed in ASCs take 31.8 fewer minutes than those performed in hospitals–a 25 percent difference relative to the mean procedure time. Given the rapid growth in the number of surgeries performed in ASCs in recent years, our findings suggest that ASCs provide an efficient way to meet future growth in demand for outpatient surgeries and can help fulfill the Affordable Care Act’s goals of reducing costs while improving the quality of health care delivery.
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