Aggressive ER building, marketing may not be a cure

Although some hospitals are cutting down on emergency services due to a weakened economy, other hospitals are ramping up emergency care by building free-standing emergency rooms (ER) or entire hospital towers of expanded ERs.

For example, in Washington state, Swedish Medical Center and Evergreen Hospital Medical Center built free-standing ERs, and MultiCare and Valley Medical Center plan to build them, reports the Seattle Times.

However, some lawmakers and affordable care advocates criticize the aggressive ER building and marketing campaigns, arguing that these free-standing ER services are built for the wealthy and well-insured.

"It's alarming because increasing emergency-room use pushes costs but doesn't improve care," said Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Wash.), chair of the Senate Health & Long-Term Care Committee. "They're totally countering what we're trying to accomplish: improving access and containing cost."

Around the country, hospitals also are touting their emergency services by posting short ER wait times online or making a patient pledge for an evaluation and exam in a certain amount of time. With the economic downturn, hospitals may continue to compete for patients, as well as boost their improved rates.

For more information:
- read the Seattle Times article