'Bedless' hospitals grow as industry moves toward outpatient care

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The changing nature of healthcare and patients’ desire for convenience have given rise to nontraditional care formats such as stand-alone emergency rooms and “micro-hospitals,” and now “bedless hospitals” are joining the push.

Such hospitals still have standard hospital features, including infusion suites, emergency rooms, helipads and operating areas, but no overnight space, according to STAT. For example, MetroHealth System recently opened a $48 million bedless facility in the Cleveland area. CEO Akram Boutros, M.D., said staff is expecting to serve around 3,000 patients during this first year.

“It reduces cost, and it reduces the risk of infection,” Boutros told the publication. “People go home to a less-risky environment, where they tend to get better faster.”

In addition to patients’ desire for speedier, more convenient care models, the growth of such facilities is also due to growth in outpatient care within the industry. While experts say increased use of outpatient services offsets the cost of pricier inpatient care, others question whether the increase of bedless facilities mean fewer resources for patients with complex treatment needs that require beds and overnight stays, according to STAT.

Some healthcare leaders have worked to streamline complex treatments along with these developments. For example, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center designed the 16-story Josie Robertson Surgery Center, an outpatient cancer center that has 28 short-stay beds but mostly performs surgeries for which patients leave within hours.

Similarly, Mercy Hospital’s Virtual Care Center in Missouri places video calls to patients, saving time and money even for patients with complex, chronic conditions, according to CNN Money. It's especially beneficial for patients who may live far from the nearest healthcare facility. "You have to break that whole clinic kind of thinking with nursing: 'Oh my gosh, he needs to go to the ER," Dan Milner, a navigator for the care center, said. There's "an antiquated idea of how people think healthcare should be."