Ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) are rapidly gaining recognition as high-quality health care facilities that offer outpatient procedures in a convenient, cost-effective environment. Procedures that were once only performed in hospitals, such as colonoscopies and cataract surgeries, are now available in these small-scale surgical centers. And you can add spine surgery to that list as well.
For many years, spine surgery was an invasive procedure that involved a large incision, disruption of surrounding tissues, and an extensive recovery. However, due to advances in technology and modern medicine, some spinal conditions can now be treated through minimally invasive spine surgery (MIS). With MIS, the spine is accessed by placing tubular channels and endoscopes through very small incisions. Benefits of MIS include reduced blood loss, less tissue damage, less pain and faster recovery (Source: American Association of Neurological Surgeons).
With many spine conditions now being treated through outpatient procedures, hospitals are no longer the only option available for patients requiring spine surgery. Kenny Hancock, President and Chief Development Officer of Meridian Surgical Partners, believes that ASCs will see more spine surgeries in the future, as patients continue to seek low-cost options for quality medical treatment. Surgeons are also likely to explore the option of moving spine surgery cases to ASCs as they see the opportunity to increase productivity, control their surgical environment, and work outside of a hospital setting.
ASCs provide the most cost-effective surgical option for insurance companies and patients. According to the Ambulatory Surgical Center Association, ASCs save Medicare $2.6 billion a year. Those savings would nearly double if only half of all eligible procedures were performed in ASCs instead of hospitals. There is currently no Medicare fee schedule for spine surgery in ASCs, so reimbursement rates are negotiated between the ASC and insurer. However, on average, ASC rates are only 58 percent of the amount received by hospitals (Source: Becker's Spine Review).
Although spine surgery is relatively new to the ASC scene, it may become more commonplace as insurers and consumers see it as a low-cost alternative to the hospital setting. Modern medicine is always changing, which means your options as a patient are changing too!