Hospital Observation Units Could Save Billions in Health Costs, Study Says09/27/12
THURSDAY, Sept. 27 (HealthDay News) -- Wider use of hospital
observation units could save the U.S. health care system billions
of dollars a year, a new study indicates.
An observation unit is a space near or within the emergency
department that provides an alternative to inpatient admission. The
unit cares for patients, usually for a 24-hour period, who have
been discharged from the emergency department but need further
observation and aren't ready to safely leave the hospital.
Only about one-third of U.S. hospitals have observation
Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital, in Boston, analyzed
national survey data and published research to determine the
average cost saving per observation unit and the number of
hospitals that would benefit from having such a unit.
They concluded that the average amount saved per patient could
be $1,572 per visit when using an observation unit instead of
inpatient admission. A hospital would save $4.6 million a year by
avoiding 3,600 inpatient admissions. The U.S. health care system
would save $3.1 billion a year by avoiding 2.4 million inpatient
"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 to short-stay inpatient admission," lead researcher Dr. Christopher Baugh, a physician in Brigham and Women's emergency department, said in a hospital news release.
Hospitals that would benefit from having an observation unit
include all those with more than 50,000 emergency department visits
a year, and many hospitals with 20,000 to 50,000 emergency
department visits a year.
The study appears online and in the October print issue of the
The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has more
health care costs.
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