Anyone having surgery should expect the highest quality standards at their facility. Thanks to the Health Error Accountability Law (HEAL), patient safety in NJ hospitals is tracked through the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS).
According to the The NJ Department of Health and Senior Services, over 43% percent of surgeries occur in Ambulatory Surgery Centers (ASCs), free standing facilities specializing in outpatient surgeries and other procedures. Of the state's 212 ASCs, only one third are State licensed. Recent national and NJ inspections uncovered serious problems in sterilization of equipment and improper cleaning standards. While conducting a quality survey, the State even forced one facility to close until their quality problems were rectified. But these inspections occur infrequently.
AARP New Jersey worked closely with the state legislature to make sure that more would be done to monitor ASC quality.
Under the leadership of Senator Robert Gordon and Assemblyman Herb Conaway, legislation to address these issues was passed during the “lame duck” legislative session. (Lame duck refers to the period between an election defeat and a successor's assumption of political office, in this case, the office of the Governor). The law now requires ASCs to use uniform billing codes so the State can better monitor preventable medical error data. Further, by mirroring the Hospital Acquired Infection Reporting Law for ASCs, NJ will be able to track their rate of surgical infections. It’s very timely to have better oversight by both the state and consumers on the quality of care offered by ASCs.
ASCs are usually used for planned surgery so this is one time that a consumer has time to decide where to have surgery done. Soon infection rates will be published for hospitals (later in 2010) but without this law we would not know the infection rates at surgery centers. We want consumers to know ALL their choices for safe, planned surgeries.
AARP also wants the hospitals and ASCs to "police" themselves. Administrators will look at the results of these reports and naturally will want to perform like the best in the business. The public nature of infection rates will ensure policy makers, health care administrators, surgeons, referring doctors, and the patients themselves can see the full range of quality -- be it an ASC or a hospital.