The mean charge for outpatient surgery was $6,100 versus $39,000 for inpatient surgery in 2007, according to the most recent report on surgical costs from the federal government. Insurance companies are also less likely to pay for stays at rehabilitation centers, places where surgical patients were often sent after hospital discharge to recuperate.
With patients going home so quickly, more are having to grapple with complications on their own. Of all the complications that occur in the 30 days after surgery, such as infection and blood clots, almost half will surface after a patient leaves the hospital, according to data from one million patients in a surgical quality improvement program sponsored by the American College of Surgeons.
"The onus is really on patients to recognize if something is a problem," says Clifford Ko, a colorectal surgeon at the University of California, Los Angeles, and director of research and optimal patient care for the American College of Surgeons.