Building a Better Kind of Care
For some people, having surgery in a place other than a hospital
might sound like a strange idea. But that's the intention behind
Ambulatory Surgery Centers. Owned by the Vail Valley Medical Center
and local surgeons, Vail Valley Surgery Center is an Ambulatory
Surgery Center (ASC) which opened in Vail in 2002. VVMC recently
built a second ASC facility at their Edward's campus, which opened
on June 11th.
Cutting costs and increasing efficiency
An ASC is designed for outpatient surgeries and procedures. In the medical world, 'outpatient' means a surgery visit that takes 23 hours or less from pre-operation to recovery. ASCs are becoming more popular for a number of reasons. Due to lower overhead, ASCs tend to save money for both the patient and insurance companies. ASCs are designed to reduce hospital stays, which could also contribute to cost savings.
Doris Kirchner, president and CEO of the Vail Valley Medical Center, said that twenty years ago, a patient having surgery on their ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) would typically stay in the hospital for three days. Now someone having ACL surgery may go home on the same day. By focusing on outpatient surgeries, ASCs are designed to streamline medical operations and make things more efficient.
Dan Feeney, senior project engineer and VVSC Edwards project manager said the space was designed with efficiency in mind. "Our goal is to control health care costs and we want the clinical staff to be as efficient on a day-to-day basis as it can possibly be."
In opening the Edwards' ASC, Vail Valley Surgery Center is looking to reduce costs without decreasing patient satisfaction or surgery outcomes.
"Outpatient surgery is on the rise," said Laura Millard, administrator of the Vail Valley Surgery Centers. "It contributes to cost savings, increased efficiency, patient satisfaction and physician satisfaction. (It's) definitely a trend that's growing."
Time to expand
When the first ASC opened ten years ago, VVMC knew they would eventually expand. Once the Vail facility reached full capacity, it made sense from a business and financial standpoint to open a second surgery center, said Dr. William Sterett, VVSC medical director and orthopedic surgeon.
The Edwards building provides more space and gives patients who live west of Vail the option of having their surgery closer to home. The new facility is state-of-the-art and equipped with the latest technology. Instead of curtains between beds in the pre-op area, there are glass doors that separate patients from one another, providing a more personal atmosphere for patients, doctors and staff.
"We really focused on patient privacy when we built this facility," Millard said.
While not every patient is the right candidate for having their operation at an ASC, Dr. Sterett said a significant number of his surgeries could now be done in Edwards. At the Vail ASC, orthopedic surgeries are the most common procedure. VVSC will move their gastrointestinal procedures exclusively to the Edwards building. Other common ASC operations include pain management, podiatry, ophthalmology, urology, general surgery, and ear, nose, and throat surgeries. Breast cancer patients at the Shaw Regional Cancer Center will now be able to have their surgeries next door at Vail Valley Surgery Center Edwards.
'Health care without walls'
Dr. Sterett said statistically, patients who have their operation at an ASC have the same surgical success rates as those who have their surgery at a hospital. However, he thinks ASCs give doctors and medical staff a chance to enhance the patient's overall experience.
"Most patients who have surgery have one surgery their whole life," Dr. Sterett said. "If they can come away from that and say, 'That was a great experience', that's the goal."
ASCs align with many patients' desire to spend as little time at the hospital as possible.
"Patients want to get in, get out, get home, and get on with
(their) life…and still have a great outcome," Dr. Sterett
With the Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act announced recently, debates about health care reform are not likely to stop anytime soon. While there is no specific mention of ASCs in the new law, Kirchner said surgery centers offer alternatives for surgical care.
"As we move to health care without walls, hospitals as we know them today are historically going to be less and less the center of care," Kirchner said. "Surgery centers are one answer to that. I believe that (ASCs) will help us decrease health care costs in general."
Both Vail Valley Surgery Centers in Vail and Edwards reflect a change in the way we practice health care, and hopefully for the better.
"There will be a stronger push for procedures done in an outpatient setting instead of an inpatient setting," Dr. Sterett said. "ASCs are going to become a common way of life…Five years from now everybody will know what an Ambulatory Surgery Center is."