Surgical procedures in inpatient versus outpatient settings and its potential impact on follow-up costs

Health Policy. 2021 Oct;125(10):1351-1358. doi: 10.1016/j.healthpol.2021.07.006. Epub 2021 Jul 21.


Objective: We examined real-world effects of cantonal legislations to direct surgery patients from the inpatient to the outpatient setting in Switzerland.

Methods: Analyses were based on claims data of the Helsana Group, a leading Swiss health insurance. The study population consisted of 13'145 (in 2014), 12'455 (in 2016), and 12'875 (in 2018) insured persons aged >18 years who had haemorrhoidectomy, inguinal hernia repair, varicose vein surgery, knee arthroscopy/meniscectomy or surgery of the cervix/uterus. We assessed the proportion of inpatient procedures, index costs, length of hospital stays, outpatient costs and hospitalizations during follow-up, stratified by procedure, in-/outpatient setting, and the presence (enacted/effective in 2018) of a cantonal legislation. We used difference-in-differences methods to study the impact of cantonal legislations.

Results: Overall, the proportion of procedures performed in the inpatient setting decreased between 2014 and 2018 (p < 0.001). The decrease between 2016 and 2018 was significantly steeper in cantons with a legislation (p < 0.001; effect size: 0.57; 95% CI: 0.51, 0.64), leading to steeper decreases in healthcare costs of index procedures in cantons with a legislation, with no impact on length of hospital stays. The legislation also had no impact on outpatient costs or hospitalizations during follow-up.

Conclusions: The cantonal legislations achieved the intended effects of inpatient surgery substitution by outpatient surgery, with no evidence suggesting negative effects on costs or hospitalizations during follow-up.

Keywords: Day surgery; Federal legislation; Follow-up costs; Healthcare costs; Inpatient.

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Surgical Procedures
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Care Costs
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Inpatients*
  • Outpatients*
  • Retrospective Studies