Better Solutions for Healthcare

ASC Review: ‘Half the cost, half the risk’ at ASCs versus hospitals — Dr. Shakeel Ahmed makes the case for upheaving referral patterns

By Angie Stewart
June 9, 2020

Costs and infection rates. Those are two healthcare measures made more important than ever by the COVID-19 pandemic — and they’re also two areas where ASCs have hospitals beat by a long shot, according to Shakeel Ahmed, MD, CEO of Atlas Surgical Group.

“ASCs were the need of the time for the last 10, 20 years. ASCs are a necessity now,” Dr. Ahmed told Becker’s ASC Review. “Healthcare is bleeding money, and what comes to the forefront is healthcare savings. … ASCs can save up to $40 billion a year in healthcare costs if elective cases are moved to outpatient settings.”

Moreover, studies have shown the rate of healthcare-associated infections in ASCs is just a fraction of the rate for hospitals, Dr. Ahmed said. A CDC study he cited from 2009 revealed that about 8.95 patients per 1,000 developed a surgical site infection in the hospital setting, compared to just 4.84 in 1,000 patients who had surgery in an ASC.

These are the points Atlas Surgical Group wants to get across on a new billboard advertisement, which is meant to draw patients back after elective case restrictions and amid ongoing virus concerns.

“Scared of hospitals? Choose a surgery center. Half the cost. Half the infection risk,” the billboard reads, listing Atlas Surgical Group’s locations in St. Louis, O’Fallon, Ill., and Fairview Heights, Ill.

Explaining the rationale behind the advertisement to Becker’s, Dr. Ahmed compared what common procedures cost at ASCs versus hospitals. Knee arthroscopy is about $900 to $1,000 in an ASC, compared to over $2,000 in a hospital. Lumbar fusions cost $5,000 in an ASC and roughly $11,000 in a hospital. And an even simpler procedure — a colonoscopy — is about $300 in the ASC, and more than twice as much in a hospital, Dr. Ahmed said.

“Hospitals set prices without negotiation because they know insurers will pay rates at least twice as much as ASCs with no greater value. In fact, they offer less value, for double the price; they expose these patients to twice the risk of infections,” he said. “That’s what the billboard states.”