April 12, 2021

The value in ambulatory vs inpatient surgery

By: Judy Mathias
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Editor's Note

In this study, researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, find that ambulatory surgery offers significant cost savings and generally superior 30-day outcomes compared to inpatient surgery.

Of 73,724 patients having hernia repair, primary total or partial thyroidectomy, laparoscopic cholecystectomy, or laparoscopic appendectomy in either the inpatient or outpatient setting:


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  • approximately 87% were performed in the ambulatory setting
  • surgical costs were significantly lower for ambulatory vs inpatient cases for all four procedures
  • odds of having a 30-day readmission after thyroidectomy, hernia repair, and laparoscopic cholecystectomy were lower in ambulatory vs inpatient settings
  • readmission rates after ambulatory vs inpatient laparoscopic appendectomy were comparable.

Facility fees appear to be a driving force behind rising healthcare costs, and inpatient surgery fees are significantly higher than ambulatory surgery fees, with ambulatory patients having better or comparable outcomes, the researchers say.

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