The healthcare industry is witnessing a widespread shift. Medical offices and off-site healthcare facilities have grown in popularity and use. Many patients turn to these ambulatory facilities for care that would have previously gone into hospital settings. This trend began before COVID-19 but has drastically increased the shift to ambulatory care. As healthcare networks invest more resources in their ambulatory facilities, they will need to strategically consider how best to leverage off-site facilities in line with continuing ambulatory care trends.
Why Is Ambulatory Care Increasing?
Patients have grown more attracted to off-site facilities due to the variety of services offered. Ambulatory facilities offer services that are:
- Accessible across the continuum
- Seamless and patient-centered
Patients prefer facilities that deliver the least restrictive level of care combined with the confidence of community-based access. At the same time, improved technology and patient safety procedures mean that patients can more confidently seek out ambulatory settings knowing that they will receive the same level of care and risk management as they would in a hospital.
As a result of COVID-19, patients are more cautious about healthcare settings, further enhancing patient preference for ambulatory care. Examples of drivers of change as they relate to COVID-19 include:
- Unavailable or reduced inpatient surgical appointments.
- Patient fear and avoidance of hospitals.
- Broader patient inclusion and selection criteria.
- Preservation and restoration of physician surgical revenue.
What Are the Latest Ambulatory Care Trends?
Hospitals and acute care settings can expect clinically appropriate patients to be served more in ambulatory settings, creating a net loss of inpatient volume. Many ambulatory facilities are physician-owned. As such, hospitals and health systems that do not strategically commit to moving cases to off-site settings risk getting left behind.
Healthcare networks focused only on acute care settings risk losing many cases to better-prepared ambulatory care competitors. Although a return on investment will not necessarily appear in downstream inpatient volumes, proactive health systems must strategically devote resources to leverage the new market reality.
Growth opportunities exist when leveraged in integrated ways. Sg2 projects a 20% increase in procedures performed at ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs). The procedures shifting to ASCs include the following:
- Cataract surgery
- Joint replacement
- Spinal laminectomy
- Pacemaker implantation
- Pelvic floor procedures
Likewise, the research finds physician offices poised for a 13% increase in other procedures over the next ten years. Hospital outpatient departments (HOPDs) are also experiencing a 14% growth in other procedures.
What Is the Future of Ambulatory Care?
Ambulatory care trends demonstrate that healthcare providers must strategically invest in leveraging this shift. Patients will continue to choose facilities they value for offering more personalized, accessible services, and healthcare organizations must prepare to meet this increasing demand.
Part of preparing for the future of ambulatory care includes ensuring the ambulatory facilities you invest in maintain cleanliness and safety standards.