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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