Sep 26, 2012Hospital Observation Units Could Save the Health Care System $3.1 Billion
New research suggests that maximizing the potential of observation units in hospitals could result in significant cost savings for the both the hospital and the healthcare system.
Previous research has shown that observation units in a hospital can be an efficient way to care for certain patients, but only about one-third of hospitals in the United States have such units. Now, researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) estimate that maximizing the potential of an observation unit in a hospital could result in $4.6 million in savings annually for the hospital and $3.1 billion in overall savings for the health care system in the United States. These findings are published online by Health Affairs and will also appear in the journal's October issue.
"We believe that this is the first attempt to quantify the financial impact of an observation unit," said Christopher Baugh, MD, lead researcher on the paper and a physician in the Emergency Department at BWH. "Wider use of observation units may play a significant role in saving cost for the health care system and future policies that are focused on doing so should include support for observation units as an alternative tin short-stay inpatient admission," Dr. Baugh said.
observation until, a dedicated space typically near or within the emergency
department, is an alternative to inpatient admission and is dedicated to caring
for patients, usually for a 24-hour period, who have been discharged from the
emergency department (ED) but require further observation and are not ready to safely
leave the hospital. Previous research
has shown that care in these units is equal or better in quality compared to
inpatient care for certain patient populations.
Researchers used national survey data and published research to determine the average cost saving per observation unit and the number of hospitals that would benefit from an observation unit. They created a simulation model by using a method frequently used to evaluate risk in business when there are many uncertain variables.
"In the wake of health care reform and increased scrutiny on the cost of health care, the health care system is under pressure to maintain quality care while decreasing cost. Observation units represent a feasible way to achieve this goal and merit further evaluation as model for acute care redesign to increase the value of care provided throughout the country," Dr. Baugh said.
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