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Surgery centers offer outpatient options

Owners of the North Dakota Surgery Center hope its new building will be open by July. Photo / North Dakota Eye Clinic1 / 2
A rendering of the North Dakota Surgery Center under construction on 47th Avenue South in Grand Forks. Photo / North Dakota Eye Clinic2 / 2

The North Dakota Surgery Center plans to open the doors of a new facility in south Grand Forks this summer.

The current surgery center on DeMers Avenue, built in 1997, has outgrown its 4,500-square-foot space, said Dr. Mark Sczepanski, one of the North Dakota Surgery Center owners. The center houses the North Dakota Eye Clinic and Valley Bone and Joint. Physicians at the eye clinic and orthopedic clinic share a single operating room.

"We are completely running out of space," Sczepanski said. The new North Dakota Surgery Center, under construction on 47th Ave. S. is 14,000 square feet and will have three operating rooms, a procedure room and pre-op and post-op bays. There also will be 23 rooms that people can stay in overnight and will go home the next day. Ambulatory Surgery Centers are entities that exclusively operate to provide surgical services to patients who don't require hospitalization and in which the duration of services will not be more than 24 hours after admission, according to the North Dakota Department of Health.

Seven physicians from Valley Bone and Joint and the North Dakota Eye Clinic will have offices at the surgery center on 47th Avenue South which is expected to open its doors in July, Sczepanski said. Those physicians, together with Surgery Partners, a Nashville, Tenn., company own the North Dakota Surgery Center. They hope to add other specialists to the physician staff, Sczepanski said.

National trends

There are more than 5,600 Ambulatory Surgery Centers, which offer patients the option of having surgeries and procedures performed outside of hospital settings, across the United States, said Kay Tucker, Ambulatory Surgery Center Association communications director. The first ASC was built by two Phoenix, Ariz., doctors in 1970. After rapid growth during the next several decades, construction of the centers has stabilized in the past five years, Tucker said.

There are 11 Medicare-certified ASCs in North Dakota and 69 in Minnesota, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. In North Dakota, the centers are in the state's largest cities, including Grand Forks, Fargo and Bismarck.

Patients who have surgeries or procedures performed at ambulatory surgery centers like the North Dakota Surgery Center do so because they're convenient—patients don't have to check in and out of them as they do at a hospital, Sczepanski said. Meanwhile, the surgery centers have a low infection rates because they don't have ill patients staying in their rooms, and the patient costs are lower, he said.

Benefits

A 2014 review of commercial medical claims showed that the availability of ambulatory surgery centers reduced health care costs by more than $38 billion annually, according to a study by Healthcare Bluebook and HealthSmart. More than $5 billion of the cost savings were the result of lower deductible and coinsurance payments, the study said. Ambulatory Surgery Center prices typically are lower than hospital outpatient department prices for the same procedure in all markets, regardless of payer, according to the study.

"It's such a game changer," Sczepanski said. "Ten years ago, you never would have thought you would be doing surgeries outside of a hospital." Now that's common and he expects the trend will continue. In the next decade surgeries such as total knee replacements likely will be performed in ambulatory surgery centers, Sczepanski said.

"Ten years from now, we're going to say 'Of course, it doesn't have to be done in a hospital.' "

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