In recent years, many new ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs) – also called outpatient surgery centers – have opened across the United States. These ASCs give patients needing relatively minor procedures the option to have same-day, outpatient surgeries without needing to be admitted to the hospital. This can save surgical patients significant expenses and make the process easier for physicians.
In the past, the main option was for a physician to perform surgery in a hospital. However, this meant waiting weeks or months to get on the schedule due to the limited availability of operating rooms, outdated equipment due to limited hospital budgeting, and often the requirement that patients spend one or more nights in the hospital.
Now, physicians are turning to ASCs for many procedures, as they can have greater control over their practice of surgery. Many physicians are starting their own ASCs, sometimes as part of a healthcare network. Whether or not physicians have ownership interests in an ASC, they can often enjoy the following benefits of choosing these facilities for their procedures:
- More convenient scheduling
- Having teams of highly-skilled surgical teams with specialized training
- Having the best supplies and equipment available for specific procedures or techniques
- Facilities designed and tailored to specific surgical specialties
- More professional autonomy over the surgery environment
With all of these benefits, it is no surprise that many physicians prefer to operate from ambulatory surgical centers – or even start their own centers.
In addition to the benefits for physicians, ASCs can often be much more convenient and affordable for patients. Unless a patient is undergoing a major procedure that would require hospitalization, it is not a surprise that more and more patients are choosing to schedule procedures in ASCs than in the hospital.
Potential Antitrust Challenges for ASCs
While they are a positive trend in surgery and healthcare, opening and operating an ASC is not always a walk in the park. Many physicians and other parties experience challenges – specifically, antitrust challenges – when starting operations.
First, physicians might face antitrust allegations if they both own and refer patients to an ASC. Physician ownership of these surgical center can raise eyebrows, but they can prevent antitrust violations by taking steps to ensure:
- Proper structuring of the ASC business
- Always paying market value for their ownership interests instead of sweat equity or quid pro quo ownership
- Proper profit distributions to all physician and non-physician investors
Even if the formation of an ASC does not lead to antitrust allegations or investigations, these independent surgical centers might have antitrust concerns about large hospitals who might try to push them out of the market. Hospitals have been known to take action against ASCs that violate anticompetition laws.
Contact an Antitrust Lawyer Handling Cases Across the United States
The Law Offices of George M Sanders, P.C. helps healthcare providers of all types with antitrust matters. Whether you are facing allegations or have potential allegations to bring against hospitals or other facilities, we can evaluate your options. Contact us for more information today.