Speaking on a panel devoted to trends in ambulatory strategy at the Becker’s Hospital Review annual meeting in April, Regent’s Thomas Crossen shared key factors driving hospital systems to consider converting hospital operating departments (HOPDs) to ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) – an important trend reversal over just a few years ago.

While HOPDs have been a popular strategy in the past because they command a higher reimbursement rate, healthcare’s rapid shift toward value-based care is accelerating a need to perform surgical procedures in the most appropriate clinical and economic setting. Payers are demanding lower-cost settings, patients prefer outpatient procedures, and physicians’ groups seek hospital partnerships to streamline administrative functions. As a result, conversion of HOPDs to joint venture ACSs makes increasing sense.

As Regent’s chief development officer, Crossen is well-versed in the pros and cons health systems weigh as they consider HOPD conversion or joint venture partnership in an ASC. But he pointed out that if hospitals delay action, the best physicians in the marketplace could partner with a competing hospital system or open an ASC on their own.

“I think many hospitals are going through the decision tree, realizing in the first few years they stand to lose some revenue, but over five years or a decade they would stand to lose all these physicians all together. They’re choosing to bite the bullet today rather than in the future,” said Crossen.

HOPD to ASC conversion is more possible today due to advances in technology that enable higher acuity procedures, such as total joint and spine surgery, in outpatient surgery centers. Crossen noted that Regent is currently working with two Midwest systems to convert HOPDs to ASCs as they move toward value-based care.

And despite lower outpatient reimbursement rates, the hospitals are discovering benefits to a more robust ambulatory strategy. It helps them develop relationships with physicians that aren’t currently performing cases at the hospital, resulting in incremental volume, and also appeals to self-insured employer groups, which make up 65 percent of the market today and demand value-based care.

To learn more about HOPD to ASC conversion, download Regent’s latest white paper here.