Hospital observation units could save billions in health costs, study says

September 27, 2012
Hospital observation units could save billions in health costs, study says
ER patients not ready for home can receive care in these units instead of being admitted as inpatients.

(HealthDay)—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 units.

Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital, in Boston, analyzed 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 admissions.

"Wider use of observation units may play a significant role in saving cost for the and future policies that are focused on doing so should include support for observation units as an alternative to short-stay inpatient admission," lead 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 visits a year.

The study appears online and in the October print issue of the journal Health Affairs.

Explore further: Under pressure from Medicare, hospitals hold more seniors for observation

More information: The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has more about health care costs.


Related Stories

Under pressure from Medicare, hospitals hold more seniors for observation

June 4, 2012
Nobody wins when patients stay in the hospital unnecessarily, so the federal government in recent years has pushed hospitals to be careful about admitting Medicare recipients as inpatients. The apparent result is that more ...

Re-admission rates via emergency rooms climbing among patients who have recently been hospitalized

June 1, 2011
Emergency department patients who have recently been hospitalized are more than twice as likely to be admitted as those who have not recently been in the hospital, according to new research from the Perelman School of Medicine ...

Recommended for you

Dog ownership linked to lower mortality

November 17, 2017
A team of Swedish scientists have used national registries of more than 3.4 million Swedes aged 40 to 80 to study the association between dog ownership and cardiovascular health. Their study shows that dog owners had a lower ...

New shoe makes running 4 percent easier, 2-hour marathon possible, study shows

November 17, 2017
Eleven days after Boulder-born Shalane Flanagan won the New York City Marathon in new state-of-the-art racing flats known as "4%s," University of Colorado Boulder researchers have published the study that inspired the shoes' ...

Study: For older women, every movement matters

November 16, 2017
Folding your laundry or doing the dishes might not be the most enjoyable parts of your day. But simple activities like these may help prolong your life, according to the findings of a new study in older women led by the University ...

Vaping while pregnant could cause craniofacial birth defects, study shows

November 16, 2017
Using e-cigarettes during pregnancy could cause birth defects of the oral cavity and face, according to a recent Virginia Commonwealth University study.

When vegetables are closer in price to chips, people eat healthier, study finds

November 16, 2017
When healthier food, like vegetables and dairy products, is pricier compared to unhealthy items, like salty snacks and sugary sweets, Americans are significantly less likely to have a high-quality diet, a new Drexel University ...

Children's exposure to secondhand smoke may be vastly underestimated by parents

November 15, 2017
Four out of 10 children in the US are exposed to secondhand smoke, according to the American Heart Association. A new Tel Aviv University study suggests that parents who smoke mistakenly rely on their own physical senses ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.