Informa Australia is part of the Informa Connect Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 3099067.


What can Australia learn from US ambulatory surgery centres?

14 Jun 2024, by Amy Sarcevic

Ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) have existed in the USA for more than fifty years, with around 6000 Medicare-certified centres now open throughout the country.

These innovative healthcare facilities – which offer same-day surgical care, including diagnostics and prevention – have transformed healthcare for millions of Americans.

But how do they compare in Australia’s healthcare system and what can we learn from the US’s success story?

William Prentice, CEO of the Ambulatory Surgery Centre Association (ASCA) USA – a speaker at this year’s Short Stay Hospital Forum – believes ASCs deliver excellent patient outcomes and are an asset to any healthcare system.

“I’ve never seen a piece of research showing poorer health outcomes in this type of a facility. In every study I’m aware of, patient outcomes are at least as good, if not better, than when the equivalent care is provided in a hospital,” he said.

“We also know that in an ambulatory surgery center, the same procedure can take 25 percent less time than when performed in a hospital outpatient department. So it is really a no-brainer when thinking of ways to improve healthcare for the public.”

Mr Prentice believes these outcomes are inevitable, given that staff in ASCs perform a narrower range of procedures and can deepen their expertise more easily than in a hospital environment.

“Surgery centers only perform outpatient procedures, so they have staff who are really specialised in them. They provide really excellent care because they’re doing the same procedures over and over again and can do them more quickly with the same safety and the same great outcomes.”

Alongside this, he also credits clinical advances and quality physician leadership.

“Being able to anesthetize a patient and then have them wake up and be coherent and able to go home that same day, has obviously been a key enabler.

“But beyond that, I think that physician leadership is the most important component of the surgery center in terms of its ability to provide really excellent care – the highest clinical standards and great patient outcomes in a very efficient manner.”

So far, ASCs in the USA have successfully performed a range of common procedures. However, Mr Prentice believes the model has only scratched the surface in terms of its capabilities.

“We currently do a range of common services, from cataract surgeries and screening colonoscopies, to total joint replacements.

“Along the care continuum, there are procedures that, due to their complexity and potential for blood loss et cetera – won’t likely be suitable for same day discharge.

“But then again, I don’t think anyone could have imagined ten years ago that we would be doing total knee or shoulder replacements and that patients would be going home the same day. So, it is hard to predict where this movement will go.”

While Mr Prentice acknowledges the challenges around funding short stay models in Australia, he believes the effort is worth it.

“It is hard to break loose from doing the things we are used to, especially if there are better financial incentives for keeping care in the hospital environment, and not migrating to surgery centres or even outpatient departments.

“But I do think the current pressures on our healthcare system require some new thinking and for all of us to be invested in providing care more efficiently and at a lower cost.”

Sharing more insights into how ASCs are transforming US healthcare, Mr Prentice will present at the upcoming Short Stay Hospital Forum, hosted by Informa Connect.

This year’s event will be held 30 July at the Rendezvous Melbourne.

Learn more and register your tickets here.

About William Prentice

William (Bill) Prentice is chief executive of the Ambulatory Surgery Center Association (ASCA) and the Ambulatory Surgery Center Association Foundation (ASCAF).

ASCA is the national organization representing the interests of more than 6,200 ambulatory surgery centers in the US, and provides advocacy, education, benchmarking and staff training for its many members.

Under his tenure, ASCA has achieved record membership numbers and significantly increased revenue while reducing expenses. It has developed a number of new membership programs and services and dramatically strengthened its advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill and with relevant federal

Blog insights you may like

Get all the latest on Informa news and events

Informa Connect Australia is the nation's leading event organiser. Our events comprise of large scale exhibitions, industry conferences and highly specialised corporate training.

Find out more

Subscribe to Insights

Join Our Newsletter
Informa Insights

Stay up-to-date with all the latest
updates, upcoming events & more.