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Taking a Close Look at Outpatient Surgical Clinics: Part 2

We queried in our immediately preceding blog post whether it seemed reasonable to throw up any red flags concerning the care provided patients in America’s outpatient surgical centers.

Here’s why, as posed in a question: How can there be any real concerns when, as noted in a recent media article discussing ambulatory surgical clinics, many millions of patients across the country visit them each year for operations?

In fact, that Washington Post piece states that about 23 million people had surgeries performed in outpatient clinics in the United States in a recent year.

That is a staggering number and certainly notable, but equally notable are the comments of ambulatory center critics and the findings in multiple studies and reports that point to legitimate concerns that need to be addressed regarding such venues.

Here’s one piece of information, culled from a CDC report from a recent year: An examination of nearly 70 outpatient surgical centers revealed problems with infection control in about two-thirds of them.

And here’s something further to consider, as revealed in a massive university study of nearly a quarter million outpatient surgeries across the country: Serious complications and fatalities occurred in about one of every 1,000 surgeries examined. On its face, that might not seem like much, but, when extrapolated outward to that above-cited 23 million outpatient surgeries performed annually, a starkly different picture emerges.

Some critics voice concern with an alleged lack of regulation in such facilities, especially when compared with hospitals.

“[Hospitals] have to report on many more aspects of what they do, such as errors and certain infections,” says the director of a national patient advocacy organization.

An attendant concern voiced by another medical industry commentator is that, when compared with hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers tend to see a healthier population and perform simpler procedures. That can make them less ready to perform optimally when things go wrong in surgery.

Referring to sudden emergencies and things gone wrong, he says that, “Unless you have drilled for it, and trained for it, it can be hard to pull off.”

Broad-based questions and concerns regarding outpatient surgical clinics seem destined to surface with increased regularity in the future, given the clear trend that marks these venues as first-choice surgical providers for scores of millions of Americans.