Having a Procedure? Certification Matters!
As the owner of North Idaho Pain Center, an ambulatory surgery center (ASC), I am often asked about the differences between a hospital and an ASC. More procedures are being done in an ASC than in the past and because of this, it is important to understand this difference. Let me start by saying they each have their own advantages, and both provide excellent, safe care.
Surgery cases that are extensive, have a greater risk for complications, and on people who have significant health problems, should be done in a hospital where the appropriate resources are available to help support the procedure.
Less risky procedures on otherwise healthy people may be appropriate for an ASC. Low risk procedures include things like same-day pain management procedures, colonoscopies, and many eye surgeries.
Both hospitals and ASCs are held to high standards of care. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has regulatory oversight of hospitals and ASCs. CMS publishes standards of care that need to be met at 100% compliance by these facilities in order to be certified. The Joint Commission and American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Centers (AAAASF) are examples of independent, not-for-profit organizations who certify that a hospital or ASC meets — and maintains — the highest quality standards.
Certification by the CMS and AAAASF address standards through a rigorous interview process that was developed by health care experts in their field. This includes review of the ASC’s policies and procedures, such as patient safety, infection control, employee safety, HIPAA compliance, patients’ rights, records review, on-site inspections and observation of procedures. This is an ongoing process and not just a one-time inspection.
Most ASCs, like North Idaho Pain Center, have certification from both CMS and an independent organization like AAAASF. Dual accreditation is the Gold Standard of care. It is important to note that office-based procedure areas do not have to undergo this type of inspection and certification, though some offices have. Certification provides a level of confidence for the patient to know that the procedure is being done in the safest environment.
One significant advantage for ASCs is cost effectiveness. With insurance deductibles skyrocketing and patients shouldering more of a financial responsibility, the same procedure is often 17-50% less when performed at an ASC vs. a hospital. Also, while both hospitals and ASCs can boast low infection rates, ASCs will often have a lower infection rate. However, this is not an equal comparison because hospitals care for a greater range of sickness in patients, and perform more complex procedures.
In short, ASCs provide excellent, safe and cost-effective care for certain same day procedures in otherwise healthy people. Make sure that if you are going to have any same day procedure in an ASC that they are CMS certified and have been independently certified by an organization such as AAAASF to ensure that they are meeting the highest quality standards.
While facilities are required to prominently display their accreditation certificate in a public area, the best way to know if a facility is actively AAAASF accredited is to contact AAAASF headquarters in Illinois directly by calling: 888-545-5222
By Dr. Scott Magnuson – North Idaho Pain Center & Pain Management of North Idaho
Dr. Magnuson is a Board Certified Anesthesiologist with Added Qualifications in Pain Management. He is a graduate of Creighton University School of Medicine, University of Missouri Kansas City Anesthesiology Residency and completed his fellowship in Pain Management at the University of California San Diego.