Emergency department observation units: A clinical and financial benefit for hospitals.
ABSTRACT INTRODUCTION: There are nearly 120 million visits to emergency departments each year, one for every three people in the United States. Fifty percent of all hospital admissions come from this group, a marked change from the mid-1990s when the emergency department was a source of only a third of admissions. As the population increases and ages, the growth rate for emergency department visits and the resulting admissions will exceed historical trends creating a surge in demand for inpatient beds. BACKGROUND: Current health care reform efforts are highlighting deficiencies in access, cost, and quality of care in the United States. The need for more inpatient capacity brings attention to short-stay admissions and whether they are necessary. Emergency department observation units provide a suitable alternate venue for many such patients at lower cost without adversely affecting access or quality. METHODS: This article serves as a literature synthesis in support of observation units, with special emphasis on the clinical and financial aspects of their use. The observation medicine literature was reviewed using PubMed, and selected sources were used to summarize the current state of practice. In addition, the authors introduce a novel conceptual framework around measures of observation unit efficiency. FINDINGS AND PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: Observation units provide high-quality and efficient care to patients with common complaints seen in the emergency department. More frequent use of observation can increase patient safety and satisfaction while decreasing unnecessary inpatient admissions and improving fiscal performance for both emergency departments and the hospitals in which they operate. For institutions with the volume to justify the fixed costs of operating an observation unit, the dominant strategy for all stakeholders is to create one.
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ABSTRACT: Acute decompensated heart failure (adHF) is the cause of approximately 1 million annual hospital admissions. In some of these, the use of a short-stay emergency department observation unit (EDOU) decreases 90-day ED revisits and 90-day rehospitalizations and, if subsequent hospitalization is required, results in shorter stays. To determine whether laboratory and clinical parameters, available at ED arrival, predict successful EDOU discharge. This was a 19-month retrospective analysis of adHF EDOU admissions. Details of medical history, clinical course, patient management, laboratory data, and disposition destination were gathered through review of electronic medical records. Recorded laboratory data included measurements of sodium, creatinine, blood urea nitrogen (BUN), hemoglobin, b-type natriuretic peptide, and initial ED systolic blood pressure. Data were analyzed for ability to predict the requirement of hospital admission after EDOU management. There were 385 patients were enrolled. The mean (+/- standard deviation) age was 69.7 (+/- 13.6) years, and 50.1% were female. On ED admission chest radiograph, 69.0% had evidence of pulmonary edema. Elevations in creatinine and BUN levels had statistically significant associations with admission; however, on multivariable analysis, only a BUN value >30 mg/dL significantly predicted EDOU management failure, and subsequent inpatient admission. These results demonstrate that a BUN level >30 mg/dL is associated with an increased likelihood of admission in patients with adHF. This provides the emergency physician with a practical prognostic tool for disposition planning in congestive heart failure patients.Academic Emergency Medicine 10/2005; 12(9):869-74. · 1.76 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Health care facilities face many challenges in their attempts to provide cost-effective care without sacrificing quality. One key factor in producing quality outcomes while maintaining economic profitability is the establishment of a cost-effective outpatient care environment. Chest Pain Units (CPUs) have evolved to provide a streamlined approach to acute cardiac care that emphasizes optimal efficiency initiated at the point of entry. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have structured new reimbursement approaches designed to shift care from the inpatient setting and "reward" efficient and appropriate care delivered in the outpatient arena. These new reimbursement strategies have transformed the CPU into an economically viable entity for the acute care facility and also have afforded opportunities to enhance the quality of care delivered to the acute cardiac patient.Cardiology Clinics 12/2005; 23(4):589-99, ix. · 1.32 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Observation and assessment wards allow patients to be observed on a short-term basis and permit patient monitoring and/or treatment for an initial 24-48 hour period. They should permit concentration of emergency activity and resources in one area, and so improve efficiency and minimise disruption to other hospital services. These types of ward go under a variety of names, including observation, assessment, and admission wards. This review aims to evaluate the current literature and discuss assessment/admission ward functionality in terms of organisation, admission criteria, special patient care, and cost effectiveness. Search of the literature using the Medline and BIDS databases, combined with searches of web based resources. Critical assessment of the literature and the data therein is presented. The advantages and disadvantages of the use of assessment/admission wards were assessed from the current literature. Most articles suggest that these wards improve patient satisfaction, are safe, decrease the length of stay, provide earlier senior involvement, reduce unnecessary admissions, and may be particularly useful in certain diagnostic groups. A number of studies summarise their organisational structure and have shown that strong management, staffing, organisation, size, and location are important factors for efficient running. There is wide variation in the recommended size of these wards. Observation wards may produce cost savings largely relating to the length of stay in such a unit. All types of assessment/admission wards seem to have advantages over traditional admission to a general hospital ward. A successful ward needs proactive management and organisation, senior staff involvement, and access to diagnostics and is dependent on a clear set of policies in terms of admission and care. Many diagnostic groups benefit from this type of unit, excluding those who will inevitably need longer admission. Vigorous financial studies have yet to be undertaken in the UK. Definitions of observation, assessment, and admission ward are suggested.Emergency Medicine Journal 04/2003; 20(2):138-42. · 1.65 Impact Factor