Here’s why more patients turn to outpatient surgical clinics for complex procedures

Thanks to advances in medical technology, many surgery patients who would once have faced a few nights in a hospital are now getting complex procedures done at outpatient clinics that can get them in and out in less than a day.

The trend toward replacing lengthy hospital stays with an outpatient approach began in the 1970s, grew steadily and still appears to be gaining momentum. There is much more at stake than patient convenience: Outpatient surgery is far less costly to patients, insurers and the government programs that pay medical bills for millions of people.

That’s because hospitals must charge enough to cover their extensive overhead costs, which are far less in an outpatient clinic.

Pam Novotny, administrator at Bellingham Ambulatory Surgery Center at 2075 Barkley Boulevard, provided some examples:

▪ For cataract surgery, Medicare reimburses a hospital about $1,800. An ambulatory surgery center gets less about $1,100.

▪ For inguinal hernia repair, a hospital gets about $2,900, while a surgery center gets about $1,700.

▪ A breast lumpectomy costs Medicare about $2,500 in a hospital, compared to about $1,200 at a surgery center.

Gary Richberg is administrator at Pacific Rim Outpatient Surgery Center, 3009 Squalicum Parkway next to Peace Health St. Joseph Medical Center. Richberg said Pacific Rim is Bellingham’s largest surgery center, with about 5,000 surgeries performed there each year.

Richberg estimated that about 35 percent of procedures at Pacific Rim are knee and hip surgeries, including full joint replacements that once involved costly hospital stays of three to four days. Medical and professional journals report that an increasing number of such surgeries are being done at surgical centers instead of in hospitals, mostly because the cost is thousands of dollars less.

By John Stark | The Bellingham Herald

Image Credit: Paul Conrad, The Bellingham Herald


About Peter Coffaro 629 Articles
A growth-driven and strategic executive, Peter Coffaro commands more than 20 years of progressive management success within the medical device industry. As a District Sales Manager for Stryker Orthopaedics, Peter was responsible for managing and directing a regional sales force to achieve sales and profit goals within the Rocky Mountain region. Previously, he was the Director of Sales & Marketing for Amp Orthopedics. In this role, Peter was responsible for planning, developing, and leading all sales and marketing initiatives. Peter is a former orthopedic distributor in the Pacific Northwest. He has also worked with DePuy Orthopaedics as well as Zimmer, and held positions in sales, sales training, and sales management. Peter has an extensive background in organizational development, business development, sales management, negotiating and P&L management. Peter holds a B.S. degree in Biology from Northern Illinois University.

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