So, you need an operation. Do you do it at a hospital or an outpatient center like RASC? For many, the ability to save money, avoid infection and recover at home makes for an easy decision.
Let’s say you develop a hernia. A surgical repair would likely cost $13,000 to $25,000 at a hospital, or possibly closer to $45,000 if the surgery were performed with a robot. At a surgical center, it would cost approximately $3,000 to repair that hernia. Why?
“Because surgery centers and hospitals have completely different functions,” says Dr. W. Stephen Minore, President & CEO of Rockford Ambulatory Surgery Center (RASC), 1016 Featherstone Road, Rockford. “The hospital is geared to do a major case in every room if they had to, and it’s expensive. Hospitals have to charge more because they have to pay for uninsured people, and they also handle patients who have catastrophic injuries. So, their fixed costs are really high.”
But at an outpatient center like RASC, costs are lower since the center only handles outpatient surgical services and pain management – no open-heart surgeries, no trauma, and nothing emergent since surgeries are always scheduled in advance.
“It’s a fiscally prudent way to deliver care,” Minore says.
Minore joined Rockford Anesthesiologists in 1987 and dreamed of opening an outpatient surgery center. At the time, outpatient surgery centers were somewhat novel, Minore says. But, after partnering with SwedishAmerican Hospital, RASC opened its doors in 1994 and has been serving Rockford and the surrounding communities ever since. To date, more than 90,000 procedures have taken place.
“We do everything from podiatry to pediatric dental surgery,” says Gina Hartman, RASC Director of Operations. “Almost every surgeon credentialed at a hospital in Rockford can be credentialed here – they just have to go through the process.”
The most common types of surgeries performed at RASC include general, gynecological, oculoplastic, oral/dental, ophthalmology, orthopedic, otolaryngological (ears, nose and throat), pain management, plastic/cosmetic, podiatric and urological procedures. Pain management surgery includes everything from simple steroid injections to radiofrequency nerve ablation, spinal cord stimulators and pain pumps.
“There’s nothing done in the world of pain management today that we don’t do,” Minore says.
In addition to less expensive care, patients also experience a lower risk of infection by having their surgery done at RASC versus a hospital, Minore adds.
“At the hospital, you have many patients with infections who are critically ill. Our infection rate is probably .19 of what it would be in the hospital, and that’s because of the nature of our patients – we don’t take care of critically ill people – and the fact that we don’t have really long operations,” Minore says. “So, for the community, that’s been very beneficial. We’ve done thousands of cases here and our satisfaction rate is over 99%.”
Hartman knows this to be true, since she’s the one who administers surveys to patients.
“I’ve worked here since 2007, and I’ve never seen our satisfaction scores below 99%,” she says. “The most common comment we get on our surveys is ‘amazing staff.’ Oftentimes, patients will remember their nurses and write down their names, which is really great.”
Before working at RASC, Hartman was a registered nurse at a hospital for many years. Although she liked her job, she always wished she could have spent more time with her patients. Working at RASC allows her that opportunity, since there are fewer patients to care for on any given day.
“When I worked at the hospital, I liked what I did, but I didn’t have the opportunity to feel good when I left every day,” she recalls. “I might have taken care of my patients and done my very best in the circumstances that I was given, but sometimes I didn’t feel like I could give the patient everything I had. Here, we get that time with our patients. I like our quality of care that we’re able to give here.”
In addition to spending more time with each patient, nurses at RASC are less likely to experience burnout, Minore adds.
“This is not a denigrating thing, but at hospitals, nurses have to take call and work weekends. Here, it’s a fixed shift, and then they can go home,” Minore says. “Working here, you have that surgical experience, but it’s not an emotionally intense atmosphere. The procedures are all simple and straight forward.”
“We don’t experience the highs and lows of ‘I’ve got 20 patients and I can’t handle it,’” Hartman adds.
Most of the RASC nursing staff have experience working under those conditions in a hospital environment, whether in a surgical area or on the emergency room floor. The result is a strong staff with diverse backgrounds, which allows for better care, Minore says, adding that everyone on the nursing staff is cross-trained to work in multiple areas, whether it’s pre-operational care, the OR (operating room) or post-operational care.
Additionally, the nursing staff is particularly attuned to making patients feel comfortable, Hartman adds.
“We do a pre-op interview one week prior to the date of the procedure to go over health history and instructions for surgery – things like don’t eat, don’t drink, and what to bring with you,” Hartman says. “But on the day of surgery, our staff – especially our pre-op staff – is so pleasant and giving to our patients. I think they really are the ones who put that patient at ease, even though it’s routine for them.”
And if a patient feels nervous about surgery, especially if that patient is a child, that compassionate care goes even farther, Hartman says.
“We do invite parents to come in and let their child walk around the surgery center and see what it’s like before the day of surgery,” she adds. “And I always tell the parents, too, how you talk about surgery is how your child will perceive it. So, if you act scared, your child will be scared. If you’re telling your child that we’re going to take really good care of them, and they’re going to feel better when this is all over, then that’s the thing your child will know.”
At the end of the day, Minore believes RASC reports such great outcomes because of the quality of the staff, from the nurses to administration to everyone in between.
“I am proud of everyone who works here,” Minore says. “They deliver constant, high-level care every day. It’s apparent that everyone who works here has a can-do attitude and wants to be here.”