Observation units help improve emergency department flow and generate savings for the hospitals, but they also can lead to higher bills for patients, The Washington Post and Kaiser Health News reported.
More than a third of hospitals use observation units, double than in 2003. The observation unit targets patients who might otherwise fall through the cracks. Those patients require more care than an emergency visit but not as much care as a full admission, such as a heart attack patient who comes in through the ED but still must undergo blood tests and stress tests in the observation unit,The Washington Post noted.
According to a November 2012 study in the Journal of Stroke & Cerebrovascular Diseases, patients referred to an observation unit were discharged 38 hours sooner than inpatients, costing the hospital a median $2,092 per patient, compared with $4,922.
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