Outpatient care refers to medical procedures and services that don’t require an overnight stay; Ambulatory Surgery Centers ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs), urgent care centers, retail or walk in clinics, primary care clinics, and imaging centers are all examples of outpatient facilities. According to Deloitte, the outpatient market is expected to grow at a significant rate of over 6 percent annually between 2016 and 2026.
So, what are the key elements enabling and influencing growth in the outpatient care market? In April 2019, Definitive Healthcare, the leading provider of data, intelligence, and analytics on the healthcare provider market, polled 188 healthcare leaders across the provider, biotech, financial services, staffing, life sciences, IT, and consulting verticals about the state of the 2019 outpatient market. Here are the results:
Biggest advantages of outpatient care
- Lower costs: The majority of respondents, 36.7%, cited "lower costs" as the biggest advantage of outpatient care. Outpatient procedures can be delivered at a much lower cost because inpatient, hospital room charges and related costs make up a substantial portion of the bill.
- Easier/more convenient recovery: 28.7% of respondents voted home recovery as the second most important advantage of ASCs. At an ASC, patients receive the same quality of care as in a hospital, but also have the advantage of same-day home recovery. Many patients prefer the in-and-out nature of outpatient surgeries and the ability to spend the recovery period with their loved ones in the comfort of their own homes.
- Lower Hospital-Acquired Condition (HAC) risks: 7% of respondents cited lower rates of infections as the biggest advantage of ASCs. Because patients recover at home, they are less likely to be exposed to bacteria and viruses that they may be exposed to in an inpatient setting.
- Improved continuum of care: With 15.9% of the votes, it's clear that patient leakage and fragmented care continues to be an issue for providers. In order to combat unnecessary testing and conflicting treatments, health systems can improve quality of care by expanding their ambulatory enterprise to prevent patients from leaving for outside providers.
- Other: 2% of respondents cited "better patient experience," "shorter wait times," and "personalized care," as the biggest advantages of outpatient care.
Outpatient Care Challenges
- Implementing and investing in new technologies: 35.8% of respondents identified HIT issues as the greatest challenge they are facing in the outpatient market. For instance, inpatient and ambulatory EHR/EMRs often don't "talk" to each other.
- Understanding industry consolidation: In Definitive Healthcare’s 2019 Healthcare Trends Survey, industry consolidation was established to be top-of-mind for healthcare professionals, and this ostensibly stretches into the outpatient market as well, with 28.5% of respondents naming it as one of the top two biggest outpatient care challenges. These days, hospitals, private equities, and insurers are opting to purchase more ASCs and physician groups to meet patient demand.
- Staffing outpatient facilities: Organizations are struggling to attract the talent necessary to expand their ambulatory care network; 16.2% of respondents named staffing as one of this year's biggest outpatient care challenges.
- Attracting new patients: 13.1% of respondents see attracting new patients as a major challenge for outpatient facilities. ASCs need constant utilization to achieve profitability, so many are turning to marketing to attract patients.
- Other: 6.5% of respondents cited "continuity and coordination of care," "cost assessment and justification," "risk avoidance," and "CMS regulations" as other outpatient care challenges.