CHICAGO (December 22, 2009) A new study published in the December issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons shows that a volunteer program providing low-risk outpatient surgical procedures can deliver safe and effective health care to patients in need. However, the study authors do caution that the program is not a long-term solution for dealing with the medically uninsured.
While Congress and the media continue to debate legislation regarding universal health care, patients without insurance struggle to obtain needed care as the safety-net of public hospitals and clinics is stretched thinner every day. Operation Access, a volunteer program coordinating uncompensated, low-risk outpatient access to surgical and specialty services for the uninsured in the California Bay Area, provides a case study on how low-cost outpatient surgical care can work. The researchers found that the program provided patients with quality care based on the Institute of Medicine's (IOM) six quality-of-care guidelines, which include: safety, efficiency, effectiveness, timeliness, patient-centered care and equitability.
"Operation Access and similar programs have expanded services in the absence of sweeping health care reform and can continue to help address the surgical and specialty care needs of the uninsured," said William P. Schecter, MD, FACS, professor of clinical surgery, University of California, San Francisco, who is a member of the medical staff at San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center. "However, these programs are not intended to be long-term solutions. To ensure timely, appropriate access and care for all patients in need, health care reform is still necessary."
Using the Operation Access database, researchers retrospectively reviewed all patients referred to the program from 1994 to 2008 and identified 5,459 patients who were eligible for services. Data were coded for demographics, diagnosis, procedure, complicati
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