How Safe Are Same-Day Surgery Centers?

By October 30, 2019 November 26th, 2019 Articles, Medical & Hospital Malpractice Article
Outpatient surgery centers

According to a leading patient safety organization, more than six out of 10 surgeries are now performed in outpatient facilities.  But just how safe are same-day surgeries and same-day surgery centers?

The Leapfrog Group is an independent, nonprofit organization focused on improving healthcare safety and quality.  It’s best known for its annual hospital safety ratings.  Based on survey responses provided by hospitals, it delivers grades on hospitals in St. Louis and across the country.

Patient safety grades are evaluated based on information received on a number of areas that account for dangerous but preventable medical mistakes in hospitals, including hospital-acquired infections, medication errors, and surgical errors.

But surgery in this country and has changed over recent years, a fact that Leapfrog acknowledged, reporting that today more than 60 percent of the nation’s surgical procedures are performed outside of hospital operating rooms. It included this data when recently announcing the findings of its first-ever patient safety survey of ambulatory surgical centers and hospital outpatient departments.

Both of these facilities treat patients that don’t require overnight stays following a surgical procedure.  They typically handle less-complicated operations and, without overnight treatment, provide less costly care than traditional in-hospital surgery. According to the Ambulatory Surgery Center Association, these facilities reduce U.S. healthcare costs by more than $38 billion per year.

But do these financial savings come at the cost of patient harm from surgical errors?

That is one question Leapfrog sought to answer in this new survey, which included responses from 321 ambulatory surgical centers and 1,141 hospital outpatient departments. In October the patient safety organization announced survey findings based on these responses it received by August 31.

Training of Surgeons in Outpatient Facilities

A common concern by patients undergoing same-day surgeries may be the training and abilities of the medical staff in outpatient facilities.  Leapfrog examined this issue and found some deficiency in training at same-day surgical centers.

For example, the survey asked the facilities whether all their surgeons and aestheticians are board certified. Such certification reflects a physician’s accomplished skill and education beyond minimal standards.  Both ambulatory surgery centers and hospital outpatient departments reported only 65% of all those performing procedures in their facilities are board certified.  In terms of those administering anesthesia, 71% and 83%, respectively, have this high professional distinction.

Leapfrog also reports a potential problem with these facilities to perform life-saving measures when something goes wrong with pediatric patients, as they do not all always have a provider present who is certified in Pediatric Advanced Life Support.

Do Same-Day Surgery Centers Follow Best Practices?

Leapfrog grades hospitals in part on how well they follow best practices for patient safety.  In this new effort it found a number of outpatient centers lacking with respect to following established best practices for surgery.

Hospital-acquired infections, including surgical site infections, can be life-threatening for patients. Many of these can be avoided by healthcare providers practicing good hygiene. Yet this new survey found that many outpatient surgical centers don’t have proven processes in place, such as electronic monitoring, to ensure their staffs properly wash their hands.

Leapfrog also reports that only 18% of surveyed ambulatory surgery centers follow antimicrobial protocols designed to decrease the spread of infections, safeguard effective antibiotic treatments, and improve patient outcomes overall.

Whether these facilities are appropriate for a given procedure or patient is a concern that Leapfrog examined.  It found that nearly all of the ambulatory surgery centers use a screening tool to ensure they can safely perform a procedure.  But the organization expressed concern that only three-quarters of the hospital outpatient department reported that they do.

Cost and convenience surely are compelling factors for attracting more patients to same-day surgical centers.  But patient safety and the expected standard level of medical care should never be sacrificed in turn.

If you or a loved one experienced serious harm related to surgery at an outpatient facility, contact a medical malpractice lawyer about conducting a detailed investigation into what went wrong.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

Authored by Gray, Ritter & Graham, P.C., posted in Articles October 30, 2019