Survey finds ASCs impacted procedure volume declines during pandemic

April 29, 2021

As expected, ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) reported severe effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on their operations in 2020, according to results from a bimonthly survey series named 60-Second Survey conducted by the Ambulatory Surgery Center Association (ASCA), reported Alex Taira in ASC Focus of ASCA. Stoppages on elective surgeries in spring 2020, though brief, caused significant declines in procedure volume. 

The first survey asked about operational impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and received 314 responses in 10 days. Responses were recorded from ASCs in 44 different states. 

·        82% percent of respondents reported lower or significantly lower procedure volume in 2020 compared to 2019. This aligns with previous ASCA surveys performed last year and publicly reported numbers such as those from Envision Healthcare, which owns Amsurg, in April 2020 that reported a 70% reduction in ambulatory surgery services since the onset of the pandemic. 

·         The severe reduction in procedure volume had obvious effects on facility finances, with 70% of survey respondents reporting lower or significantly lower revenue in 2020 compared to 2019. This aligns with a previous ASCA survey in which almost 60% of facilities reported significantly lower revenue between March 31 and Oct. 31, 2020, compared to the same period in 2019. 

State-mandated elective surgery stoppages were not the only reason for reduced procedure volume in 2020. Seventy percent of respondents to the ASCA 60-Second Survey reported higher than usual patient cancellations. The uptick in cancellations was due to a myriad of reasons: recent exposure to a COVID-19 positive person, recent travel prior to procedure date and patient discomfort with undergoing medical treatment during the pandemic were all considerations that led to a significant number of patient cancellations in 2020. 

Increased cancellations were just one of many difficulties that ASCs faced in 2020. Responses to the ASCA 60-Second Survey also showed a majority of facilities experienced difficulty maintaining staffing, navigating changing regulatory requirements and acquiring personal protective equipment (PPE). In a previous survey from ASCA, the vast majority of respondents—87.3%—reported “some” to “significant” issues with acquiring PPE, including having to pay more than normal to purchase. Despite these challenges, in past ASCA surveys facilities reported 100% compliance with universal masking and 98.1% compliance with social distancing and pre-operative patient screenings per recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

ASC Focus has the report

More COVID-19 coverage HERE.