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Are micro-hospitals the next big trend in health care?

Micro-hospitals – small-scale inpatient facilities that are open 24 hours a day all year long and typically have between eight and 10 beds for observation and short-stay use –
are a growing trend in health care. Many health systems are using micro-hospitals to fill service gaps in markets where demand would not be able to support a traditional hospital. While micro-hospitals vary in what services they offer and how they are designed, core services typically include emergency care, lab services, imaging, and pharmacy. Supplemental services may include outpatient surgery and primary care.

Micro-hospitals differ from standalone emergency departments (EDs), which have also been growing in urban areas over the last several years. While both micro-hospitals and standalone EDs are equipped to treat many emergencies and have laboratory, imaging, and some diagnostic capabilities, micro-hospitals differ from standalone EDs in that they are fully licensed with inpatient beds. Some offer primary and specialty care services.

To date, micro-hospitals are launching in just a few states: The SCL Health Community Hospital-Southwest facility opened in Denver earlier this year. Dignity Health opened a micro-hospital in Phoenix last year and plans to open more in the coming years. St. Elizabeth Hospital in Wisconsin has also launched micro-hospitals centered around a Clinical Nurse Leader who works to coordinate services.

Analysis: The move from volume to value in health care and the increased attention to consumer demands for convenient, accessible care may be shifting the landscape. The growing interest in micro-hospitals is likely in part connected to the shift toward providing more care in outpatient settings. Micro-hospitals may provide more care options for patients and reduce travel time. While patients facing serious emergencies such as a possible heart attack or major medical trauma are still advised to call 911 and let their locally trained medical professionals decide what is the best option for them, micro-hospitals may reduce reliance and wait times in EDs in certain areas.

Michelle Andrews, “Sometimes tiny is just the right size: Microhospitals filling some ER needs,” Kaiser Health News, July 19, 2016

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Author bio

Doug leads Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Life Sciences and Health Care practice. With 24 years of experience, he works closely with multiple top health care organizations on major clinical and enterprise transformation efforts and on large-scale technology implementation projects. Doug has extensive experience in comprehensive quality and patient safety transformations, turnaround and performance improvement in academic medical centers as well as organization/workflow redesign and technology enablement. He has served as the lead on a number of enterprise transformation initiatives with some of Deloitte’s most largest and most complex clients.