Patient Information

What is an ASC?

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


Why have surgery at an ASC?

  • Cost-effective and convenient care
  • Less stressful
  • High quality health care at lower costs because ASC’s focus on one thing: treating each patient with respect
  • ASC’s are efficient
  • They are conveniently located for patients
  • ASC’s are smaller and easily accessible
  • They are more affordable for patients and for payers because of  lower cost
  • The procedures performed are most appropriate for outpatient surgery
  • Post-operative care is easily managed at home and staff provide instructions to patients and family about care at home following surgery
  • You can recover in the comfort of your own home

Surgery Tips

So You're About to Have Surgery

Your family or primary care doctor or a surgeon to whom you were referred tells you that you should consider surgery.  Here are some questions you may want to ask:

  • Ask your doctor why he feels you need this surgery and what are the expected benefits and risks associated with any surgery
  • Ask your doctor if there are alternatives to surgery and review with your doctor the advantages and problems associated with this particular surgery and/or alternative treatment as the decision must be one made between you and your doctor
  • Your surgeon can always provide you with information regarding surgery and where you may obtain a second opinion if you wish
  • Ask if your surgery can be performed on an outpatient basis (where you should not expect to remain in the hospital overnight)
  • Ask your doctor to recommend both a hospital and an ambulatory surgery center where your procedure can be properly performed
  • Ask your doctor if it was her family, where would she prefer to have this procedure performed and why
  • Ask your surgeon why he is on staff at the ASC, why he performs cases there and why he thinks you should have your surgery at the ASC
  • Ask about the quality, experience and caring attitude of anesthesia and nursing staff as these health care providers, along with your surgeon,  play an important role in your procedure and recovery
  • Ask for information about your recovery at home and for any special instructions you and those at home should follow after your surgery
  • Ask the hospital or ASC if they are in your insurance network or if they will accept a payment arrangement for your portion of the bill
  • Ask about the total cost of the procedure and your co-pay requirements if you are comparing costs

What you should expect from surgery

Before surgery

The ambulatory surgery center staff will contact you from 1 to 3 days before your surgery to gather information about your health history and medications and will help answer questions you may have about your upcoming surgery.

 Your surgeon and anesthesia will see you and conduct a brief exam just before your operation. They can also answer any remaining questions you or your family may have

Depending on the surgery, your physician may order certain test to help determine your overall health.

Your surgeon may include other doctors in your care (such as the anesthesiologist), depending on your medical conditions and the type of surgery you will be having.

During surgery

A special surgical team (usually consisting of anesthesiology, surgical nurses & technicians) will assist your surgeon during the procedure. They are trained to provide you with safe care during your surgery.

The procedures performed in surgery centers usually take from 15 minutes to 2 hours and allow you to leave the ASC within 1-2 hours following surgery.

After surgery

After surgery you will be taken to a recovery area where a nurse will care for and observe you. Your vital signs and bandages will be checked and medications may be given to help control any post-operative pain.

For most minor surgeries, the nurse will encourage you to be as active as possible. Your family or caregiver may be able to sit with you during the latter part of your recovery.

  • You will be encouraged to drink fluids, sit upright, and urinate on your own before you will be sent home.
  • You and your caregiver will receive special instructions from your surgeon; you will go home with a written list of care instructions.
  • You continue your recovery in the comfort of your own home.
  • Your surgeon will also set up a time for you to come see her for your post-operative follow up visit.
  • Be sure to call your surgeon if you an unexpected symptom or problems.
  • An ASC nurse will call you the day after surgery to see how you are doing with your recovery and to answer any further questions you may have

This list is not intended as a substitute for the professional advice and consultation between you and your health care provider nor is it intended as a complete listing of all factors to consider when making a decision regarding surgery and health care services.