Ambulatory Surgery Centers

Did You Know?

An ambulatory surgery center is a place where patients may have needed surgery performed on an outpatient basis without the need for hospitalization. There are some 6,000 ASCs in the United States and over 100 ASCs here in Illinois.  All ambulatory surgery centers here in Illinois are fully licensed by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

ASCs make sense for many reasons. More than 70% of all surgeries performed in the United States are done on an outpatient or ambulatory basis without the need for hospitalization.

There are single-specialty surgery centers such as an Ophthalmology ASC where Cataract Surgery is performed (almost all cataract surgery is done on an outpatient basis) and there are multi-specialty surgery centers where a number of surgeons perform procedures such as ENT, Orthopedics, Pain and Podiatry, to name a few.

Patient satisfaction is a hallmark of ASCs. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General surveyed Medicare beneficiaries who had one of four outpatient procedures performed in an ASC. The IG found that 98% of these patients were satisfied with their experience.

One reason for high patient satisfaction is convenient scheduling. According to the national ASC Association’s Outcomes Monitoring Project, 75% of ASCs started more than 80% of their cases on time. Both patients and surgeons appreciate this on-time attention.

Another reason patients like ASCs is value. A 1977 study conducted by Blue Cross/Blue Shield revealed that, on average, procedures performed in ASCs cost 47% less than the same procedures at hospitals. The federal Medicare Program also saves over 30% when the same procedure is performed in an ASC as opposed to a hospital outpatient surgery unit. Furthermore, studies have shown that the quality of care delivered at ASCs is equal to or better than comparable hospital care.

The decision as to where a patient can have surgery is a part of the conversation between your surgeon and you and may depend on many factors such as the type of surgery and your particular health history.  Many patients choose an ASC as it is convenient, close to home, and provides patient-centered care in a warm environment. 

ASCs are cost-effective and many times both the cost of your procedure and the patient co-pay charge is lower than at a hospital for the same surgical procedure. Surgery centers are known for high patient and physician satisfaction because they care about you and run efficiently. 

Your surgeon at the ASC must also be on staff at an Illinois-licensed hospital and has a choice at where to perform your surgery but may choose to perform your case at the ASC as it can be more convenient for both you and your doctor. 

ASCs have helped the federal government keep down the rising costs of health care as many ASCs participate in the Medicare Program and accept not only Medicare but many other forms of insurance coverage.  When the same procedure can be performed by the same doctor at either a hospital or in an ASC it just makes sense to save money for both patients and insurers.  ASCs are able to do this as they specialize in outpatient surgery and have staff who are solely dedicated to quality and efficient care for patients in a safe and supportive environment.

  • ASCs are more affordable for payers. Studies have shown that the Medicare program would pay approximately $464 million more per year if all procedures performed in an ASC were instead furnished at a hospital.
  • Medicare saves almost half a billion dollars by utilizing ASCs instead of hospital outpatient departments.
  • Private insurance companies tend to save similarly, which means that employers also incur lower health care costs by utilizing ASC services. Employers and insurers, particularly managed care entities, are driving ASC growth in many areas, because they recognize the efficiencies and savings inherent in ASC settings.

“ASCs play a very important role in creating a modern, innovative health care system by providing care at a lower cost with better patient satisfaction. With the challenge of rising health care costs, it is clear to me that innovation and creativity in ASCs can make a big difference in the quality and cost of health care.”

Mark McClellan MD, PhD
Former Administrator
Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services
February 7, 2006, Washington DC