Physician-Ownership of Ambulatory Surgery Centers Linked to Higher Volume of Surgeries

Many physicians confronting declining reimbursement from insurers have invested in ambulatory surgery centers, where they perform outpatient surgical and diagnostic procedures.

An ownership stake entitles physicians to a share of the facility's profits from self-referrals. This arrangement can create a potential conflict of interest between physicians' financial incentives and patients' clinical needs. Our analysis of Florida data for five common procedures revealed a significant association between physician-ownership and higher surgical volume. Possible remedies include revising federal law to require disclosure of investment arrangements; reducing facility payments to dilute ownership incentives; and reforms (such as accountable care organizations) that discourage an excessive rate of procedures.