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Ambulatory Surgery Centers Become Must-Have for Hospitals, Leadership Survey Finds

Ongoing migration of surgical procedures and increased hospital-physician partnerships underscore value of ASCs, annual survey reveals

AUSTIN, TEXAS  The latest national survey commissioned by Avanza Healthcare Strategies, a leading expert on ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) and outpatient services, found most hospitals and health systems are planning to increase their investments in ASCs.

This fourth annual survey of senior healthcare executives and clinical leaders, available here, provides valuable insight into hospital-owned and hospital-physician joint venture ASC trends. Its findings emphasize the growing importance of ASCs to hospital systems attributable to a multitude of factors, including the ongoing shift of surgical procedures into the outpatient setting, growing competition for physicians and cases, and the value-based care movement.

Majority of Hospitals Growing ASC Investments

Hospitals and health systems of all sizes are expanding their ASC portfolios, and many are converting hospital outpatient departments to ASCs. The percentage of hospital systems with ASCs continues to increase, and more than 60% of hospitals and health systems are planning to grow their investments in ASCs going forward.

Avanza Founder and President Joan Dentler notes, “It comes as no surprise to see our new survey indicate that hospitals and health systems are pursuing a variety of ASC initiatives — often in partnership with physicians — that will allow them to broaden their surgery center and outpatient portfolios. As surgical care continues its migration out of the inpatient setting, hospital systems are recognizing the need for at least one ASC — and increasingly multiple centers — in their portfolios.”

Most Hospital Systems Structuring ASCs as Joint Ventures with Physicians

More than 80 percent of hospitals and health systems surveyed have one or more of their ASCs as joint ventures with physicians. From 2020-2021, the percentage of ASCs with 100% hospital and health system ownership declined while hospital and health system majority ownership in ASCs increased during that same period. More than half of hospitals and health systems are allowing their employed physicians to invest in their ASCs.

Dentler points to several trends that may be contributing to such changes, including hospitals and health systems recognizing the value of physician investment in their ASCs. “When physicians are ownership partners, they are more likely to support cost-conscious activities that can drive profitability and help hospital systems better maximize the revenue from their value-based contracts. Meanwhile, physicians financially benefit not only through their ownership shares but also the access they get to their partners’ payer and group purchasing contracts that further boost the bottom line.”

Third-Party Management and Partnerships Declining

Continuing a downward trend, outsourcing ASC management functions dropped from 23% in 2019 to 15% in this latest survey. In addition, the percentage of hospitals and health systems with ASCs that permit third-party equity partners also continued to decline, dropping from 44% in 2018 to 27% in the survey.

Dentler points to the maturity of the ASC industry that’s now more than 50 years old. “In the early days of ASCs, outside management services were often a necessity to running a viable surgery center. But thanks to the proliferation of support services and technologies for the industry and increase in  seasoned professionals with ASC experience, the need to give up valuable equity and enter expensive management agreements is no longer a requisite for ASC success.”

Download the “Avanza Intelligence: 2021-2022 Hospital Leadership ASC Survey” report at AvanzaStrategies.com.

About Avanza Healthcare Strategies

For more than 20 years, Avanza Healthcare Strategies has been a strategic leader in the migration of surgery from hospitals to ambulatory surgery centers. Avanza has helped ASCs, hospitals and health systems in more than 40 states plan for and open surgery centers, convert hospital outpatient departments to ASCs, develop joint ventures and assess operations of existing ASCs and hospital outpatient surgical departments. Learn more about Avanza at AvanzaStrategies.com.

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