Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Freestanding ERs

Recently, I read an article about a new idea to improve the delivery of health care. The idea is to create an entity that will "bridge the gap between overrun hospital emergency rooms and urgent-care clinics." The entities are known as local, freestanding emergency rooms (versus a hospital-based emergency room).

Currently, as we all know, the demand for emergency care is much too high; many people use the emergency room as their "primary physician." And not only are resources in hospital-based emergency rooms extremely limited because of the high demand for care, patients often (if not always) have an incredibly long wait time (been there).

There is a "huge gap" in what hospital-based emergency rooms and urgent-care clinics offer. The freestanding ERs are in between: "more than a clinic, but not quite a hospital." The freestanding ER can provide community emergency services (without overnight stay), with provisions such as x-ray, ultrasound, CT scan, MRI, and laboratory services. One freestanding ER website stated: "on average, only about 10 percent of freestanding ER patients [end up] requiring hospitalization."


I think this idea, along with other innovative ideas, could drastically improve the delivery of health care in the United States. It goes against the current "money-making-machine-mentality" driving the current health care system, but it seems so simple - and really much too sensible to pass up.


That's Ms. Amy to You... said...

It is a great idea, but I think that what's currently lacking is an understanding of what the ER is for. It's as though American healthcare needs a PR overhaul - a great marketing campaign to enhance understanding that the ER is not the place to go when you have a fever of 101 & no other symptoms ( and have just called the ambulance to transport you there). I believe many ER's now have a Fast Track program which funnels less urgent patients.... but so many of them still could have gone to Urgent Care instead of siphoning resources from those who truly have an emergency situation. .

Liz said...

I agree with your comment.

Educating the public of the appropriate use of the ER has proven extremely slow.

It reinforces the ingenuity in naming these new middle units: freestanding ERs. People may actually think that they are the same as hospital-based ERs - but with faster service.

Maybe urgent care clinics should have been termed "emergency clinics" (ECs??) simply to avoid a complete (and failed) overhaul on already strong beliefs that going to an ER was the best way to get immediate, emergency health care.

There are still, however, the people who merely want a nice warm room for the night with a meal, and don't have too much wrong with them. There haven't been many ideas to combat this group.

But the rest of the public is deeply entrenched in a system that is (after all) all about convenience, right? Hopefully this idea will help.