HHS' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) on Monday asked the White House Office of Management and Budget for permission to create a patient safety database for ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs), Virgil Dickson reports for Modern Healthcare.
Federal data show the number of Medicare-certified ASCs increased by 3.5% from 5,344 in 2011 to 5,532 in 2016. At the same time, spending grew by about 27% from $3.4 billion to $4.3 billion. About 3.4 million Medicare beneficiaries receive care at ASCs each year.
According to Dickson, AHRQ made the request for the new database a few months after a news report raised concerns about care quality and safety at ASCs. The news report found 260 patients have died since 2013 after outpatient procedures at ASCs.
Separately, CMS last year announced it planned to boost oversight of ASCs by developing a quality measure to count how many people experience adverse reactions after being treated at ASCs.
New database details
AHRQ in a notice cited "expanding volume and scope of ASC services, the growing attention of federal regulators on patient safety within ASCs, and the resultant implications for public health" as reasons for creating the database.
AHRQ said the database would draw data from patient safety culture surveys completed by ASC staff. The surveys will gauge perception about patient safety and quality assurances, such as which safety-related attitudes are expected and support, Dickson reports. According to Dickson, AHRQ wants the database to be similar for those HHS uses for hospitals, nursing homes, and pharmacies.
According to Dickson, ASCs are in favor of establishing the database, saying the surveys would help ensure care quality. William Prentice, CEO of the Ambulatory Surgery Center Association, said, "We want every surgery center to be doing that kind of internal review of the culture and communication to ensure that the patient gets the right care."
However, it's unclear whether the database would lead to quality and safety improvements, Dickson reports. Some have noted that AHRQ has not specified whether safety concerns will result in corrective action.
Michael Wong, founder and executive director of the Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety, said, "Collecting data about adverse events is one thing, but what is done with that data is perhaps the more critical step" (Dickson, Modern Healthcare, 7/11).
Primer: A quick-hit strategy guide to services shifting to ASCs
Health systems are increasingly focusing on ambulatory surgery center (ASC) services due to clinical innovation, cost pressures, patient engagement, and operational efficiency.
In this primer, we outline specialties that are growing, as well as new services emerging, in the ASC setting.