Smart Surgery

Study: performing emergency surgery increases cost for hospitals

07 Feb 2020

Over the past decade, hospitals and health systems have increasingly focussed on addressing the rising cost of healthcare. With the expense of surgical care playing a major role (nearly 30% of all healthcare costs), surgeons and researchers across the healthcare industry are working to identify new and innovative ideas to reduce surgical costs. Research published in the Annals of Surgery has taken one angle on addressing the rising cost of healthcare - performance of emergency, not elective surgery - and it seems that the findings may significantly alter costs and mortality rates for years to come. 

With easy access to primary care and screening services, emergency surgery is preventable for most conditions. Strategies that align primary care, screening programs, and measures to decrease the proportion of emergent versus elective surgery will help improve surgical outcomes and decrease costs. Although the perils of emergency surgery have been well documented, the total amount of those surgeries and their associated high expenses continue to burden hospitals. The research study in Annals of Surgery revealed that a simple 10 percent reduction in three common emergency surgeries may be all that is needed to save the healthcare industry $1 billion dollars. 

In the study, 621,925 patients who underwent abdominal aortic aneurysm repair, coronary artery bypass graft, and colon resection were analyzed based on both inpatient costs and charge. The results showed that emergency surgery was significantly more costly than elective surgery by 30 percent in abdominal aortic aneurysm repair, 17 percent in coronary artery bypass graft, and 53 percent in colon resection. Given that total surgical expenditure is projected to be more than $900 billion by 2025, any reduction in this area can be beneficial.

Efficiency and cost-effectiveness for the future

The first and necessary step toward cutting surgical cost would be for hospitals to understand which common emergency surgeries are costing them the most, and to what percentage they can be reduced. Armed with this visibility, department managers can begin to set quarterly and yearly targets, and benchmark themselves against regional and national averages. Utilization and cost insights are available with online analytics and operational decision support tools, which provide visibility into your chosen, key perioperative performance measures, and support operational decision-making throughout the surgery department.

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Gargee Kashyap

Written by Gargee Kashyap

Gargee Kashyap works as Content Manager at caresyntax. With a background in International Management, she's passionate about digital transformation in the healthcare industry and the role of technology and data analytics in improving patients’ lives worldwide. You can reach her on LinkedIn or via email at

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