Just how safe are ambulatory surgery centers?

The rise in popularity of ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) as an alternative to hospitals have made safety concerns about the facilities difficult to ignore, according to a Kaiser Health News article.

The recent death of comedian Joan Rivers due to complications during an outpatient endoscopy procedure threw the facilities into the national spotlight, but it wasn't the first time these surgery centers have been a target of calls for regulation, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

Nevertheless, patients continue to flock to ASCs--in part because the data show they are more efficient and cheaper alternatives to undergoing surgery at a hospital. The cost of surgery itself has dramatically risen in the United States in recent years, mainly due to the fact that the per capita surgery rate in the country is so high, according to FierceHealthFinance.

Experts disagree about how common adverse events in ASCs actually are, according to the Kaiser report. "There's not much known about what happens within the walls of these places by regulators or by the public," Lisa McGiffert, director of Consumers Union's Safe Patient Project, told the publication.

But anesthesiologist David Shapiro, M.D., former president of the Ambulatory Surgery Center Association, told Kaiser that the industry is "very, very tightly regulated" and as a result, "we have an exceptional, exceptional success rate."

Indeed, the ASC Quality Collaboration, an industry group, releases a quarterly safety report that tracks five quality measures--patient burns; patient falls; wrong-site, wrong-patient surgeries; hospital transfers/admissions; and antibiotic administration timing--to comply with regulations from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). In 2014, CMS took it a step further by requiring the facilities to pay a Medicare payment penalty if they don't successfully report their safety measures to the agency, Hospitals & Health Networks Magazine reported.

But the most recent national study of healthcare-acquired infections associated with ASCs was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2010, and as the growth of the surgery centers continues, calls for more independent studies on the industry are likely to increase as well.

To learn more:
- read the article
- check out the ASC report