The Norman Transcript


September 29, 2012

Outpatient visits on rise at local hospitals

NORMAN — Hospital outpatient visits at Norman Regional Health System facilities in August increased 7.4 percent over July, and year-to-date hospital outpatient visits have increased 2.1 percent compared to the same 2-month period last year. Outpatient surgeries increased even more.

Outpatient surgical cases in August increased 65 cases or 11.2 percent from July. Year-to-date outpatient surgical cases have increased 5 percent compared to the same 2-month period last year.

“If you look at the HealthPlex architecture, it’s more designed to accommodate outpatients than you will find in a hospital that was designed in the ‘70’s or the ‘80s,” said Greg Terrell, Senior VP and Chief Operating Officer of Norman Regional Health System. “Of all the surgical procedures that are done here, two-thirds are outpatient and only one third are inpatient.”

It’s a growing trend seen across the nation.

In August, the Boston Business Journal reported that, “Massachusetts hospitals increasingly are growing revenue in their smaller-margin outpatient business to make up for downward pressure on inpatient hospital stays from private and public health care payers.”

Growth in outpatient services — especially outpatient surgeries — tracks back to the 1980’s and could result from a number of factors ranging from Medicare reimbursement, to doctor-owned clinics competing with hospitals, to patient preference for outpatient, single-day care.

“Payers such as Medicare and insurance companies have had a big influence on reducing one-day stays and converting them to outpatient,” Terrell said. “That’s a cost-cutting move for them.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, outpatient surgery visits in the United States increased from 20.8 million in 1996 to 34.7 million in 2006.

“Procedures that 10 or 15 years ago were considered very high risk, like a cardiac catherization most of those diagnostic procedures are now done outpatient,” Terrell said. “It still amazes me, you can put a wire into a heart and send them home that afternoon.”

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