The American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities International

The American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities (AAAASF or "quad ASF" ) is one of three leading US organizations that accredit ambulatory, or outpatient, surgery clinics (for more on ambulatory care, see below). AAAASF was founded in 1980 to develop an accreditation program to help set establish and oversee quality assurance measures, toward creating and improving industry standards that help assure patient safety.

AAAASF now accredits more than 2000 ambulatory surgery facilities. AAAASF accreditation has been approved by each US state department of health that accepts accreditation lieu of state licensing requirements. In addition, many private insurance carriers now recognize accreditation by AAAASF for reimbursement of covered procedures.

Of particular interest to the medical traveler is AAAASFI, the international branch of AAAASF, established in 2004 to address the growing consumer and industry need for reliable quality standards throughout the world. Currently, some 50 international facilities in 15 countries outside the United States have been awarded AAAASFI accreditation in 15 countries, including Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico, South Africa and the United States.

As with its US counterpart, AAAASFI focuses on three broad quality areas: 1) safe and appropriate facility; 2) safe and appropriate physicians; 3) appropriate patients. Qualifying facilities are awarded in three year cycles, subject to random "validation surveys" any time during the cycle. Among other requirements, in order to achieve accreditation, an outpatient facility must show evidence of active board certification (or the local equivalent) for every doctor engaged by the clinic.

About Ambulatory Care

Ambulatory facilities (also commonly referred to as "outpatient") refer to specialty clinics, usually smaller than hospitals or other general medical centers, which perform procedures not requiring an overnight stay. Dental clinics, cosmetic surgery clinics are common examples, although specialties such as orthopedics, fertility and even heart care are now offered by smaller facilities outside the hospital purview.

A large percentage of ambulatory surgery facilities--in the United States and around the world--remain unaccredited, thus operating independently of any peer review and inspection process. In the US, a growing number of states and and regulatory agencies are recognizing the need for mandatory accreditation. In 1996, California became the first state to require accreditation for any ambulatory clinic that provides sedation or general anesthesia. Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Texas and a host of other states have since followed.

With the rise of minimally invasive surgeries, outpatient services are on the rise--and with that the need for overview of quality measures, stringent doctor certification and accreditation. Because in most countries clinics are not currently subject to the same regulatory oversight as inpatient facilities, the patient seeking care in an outpatient facility is prudent to be doubly scrutinizing of accreditation.

Two other recognized organizations award accreditation to international outpatient facilities: the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC International) and the Joint Commission International [JCI] Accreditation Program for Ambulatory Care.

What Board Certification and Accreditation Mean for You

Did you know that consumers overwhelmingly spend more time vetting the purchase of an automobile or television than a surgery? For most of us, researching the features of that shiny new Galaxy or iPhone is a good deal more pleasurable than digging up data on your physician or medical center—easier, too. With the advent of online, consumer product reviews and social communications watchdogs, buyers can take even more comfort in having matched a desired product to their preferences, specifications, and price range.

While it is not as easy to purchase knee surgery or a facelift as a household appliance, patients now have an array of tools that help assure a safe procedure and a satisfactory outcome.

If you are looking into a treatment that requires hospital or clinical care, you will want to review your doctor's credentials, including board certification. At the same time, be sure to check out a hospital's or clinic's record of local and international accreditation.

Last updated on 3 March 2014