What is Ambulatory Surgery?

Let’s DisAMBiguate Ambulatory Surgery

Does insurance and medical terminology confuse you? I have a dirty little secret. It even confuses licensed professionals. The word ambulatory sounds like the word “ambulance.” So what is ambulatory surgery and what is an ambulatory surgery center (ASC)?

As it turns out, it has nothing to do with ambulances.


In short, ASCs save money because if you need surgery, you can simply get a provider or specialist to schedule you. ASCs skirt expensive hospital check-ins.

Typically, you go home after an ambulatory surgery. You save money by not spending the night. Does that remind you of something called “outpatient surgery?” It should. So, what’s the difference between “ambulatory surgery” and “outpatient surgery”?

Very simple. Ambulatory surgery is a type of outpatient surgery that doesn’t involve a hospital. It only involves an Ambulatory Surgical Center. And that will likely save you money.

Ambulatory Surgical Centers may say “Outpatient Surgery”

That said, be careful. On the downside, there could be complications a hospital could be better suited to deal with. For instance, an ASC may not know about all of your medications and allergies. It also may not be prepared to tackle any complications that its streamlined business model, designed to save money, is designed for.

Think speed and efficiency, but don’t let that confuse you. Despite the name, you may or may not need to take an actual ambulance to make your appointment to an ASC – more likely not.

Emergency transportation in an “ambulance” is another matter. What does your plan say about that? Let’s look up all of these possible costs together, measure risks and find a plan or combination of plans that works best for you. That’s what I do.

James Carvin is a Florida based insurance consultant licensed in multiple states.