Having An Outpatient Surgical Procedure? Is A Surgical Center Better Than A Hospital?

Posted on: 18 October 2017

If you've recently been told you require an outpatient surgical procedure—whether an excision of a potentially cancerous mole, the placement of a stent or catheter in a blocked artery, or the removal of a colon polyp—you may be wondering about your options.

Although surgeries are traditionally performed in a hospital atmosphere, providing doctors with the ability to immediately route the patient to the emergency department if any complications occur, rising medical costs and shifting insurance practices have resulted in the proliferation of outpatient surgical centers. These centers provide many of the amenities of a hospital at a much lower cost to the patient and insurance company.

How can you decide whether using one of these centers in lieu of a hospital is your best bet? Read on to learn more about the similarities and differences between these two surgical choices.

What are the Differences Between an Outpatient Surgical Center and a Hospital? 

Unlike hospitals, which are designed to serve a variety of needs, from routine medical care and preventive screening appointments to emergency medicine, intensive care, and surgery, outpatient surgical centers have one purpose: preparing patients for surgery and ensuring the process goes smoothly. Outpatient surgical centers don't take walk-in patients, don't treat emergencies, and don't handle non-surgical needs, making them a one-stop shop for surgery patients.

Because of this, outpatient surgical centers are often significantly less expensive than hospitals, especially if you end up staying the night after your surgery. A single night in a full-service hospital can run you thousands if you have a high-deductible health insurance plan (HDHP), whereas staying in a surgical center can keep your costs as minimal as possible.

What Should You Consider When Deciding Where to Have Surgery?

If you've been offered the choice of having your surgical procedure at your local hospital or at an outpatient surgical center, there are a few factors you may want to take into account before making a final decision.

First, you'll want to consider your general risk of complications. While outpatient surgical centers have specific protocols in place to transport patients to the emergency room if complications arise during surgery, it can often make more sense to start out in the hospital if you think you have a higher-than-average chance of dealing with one or more medical issues. On the other hand, routine, simple procedures that have a very low risk of complications can make more financial and logistical sense when performed at a standalone surgical facility.  

Next, you'll want to consider your budget. If you have a HDHP and haven't yet met your deductible or out of pocket maximum for the year, you may opt for the surgical center to save money. On the other hand, if you've already reached your out of pocket maximum, you won't pay any extra by opting for the hospital in lieu of an outpatient facility.