Case study: MA hospital creates $1M quick-care unit

These days, virtually any emergency department can say it's overloaded--but the staff at Wareham, MA-based Tobey Hospital had a particularly difficult problem on their hands. The hospital, which serves flocks of vacationers from nearby Buzzards Bay during the summer, gets 35 percent of its yearly ED visits between June and August. Often, that meant a longer wait for patients with minor ailments like ear infections or the flu.

Today, however, things are different. Tobey has opened a $1 million unit, dubbed ExpressCare, designed to move non-critical patients quickly and safely through the care process. It will include 21 staff members, and will be open from 11 AM to 9 PM seven days a week. ExpressCare's goal is to get such patients in and out within an hour. Staff will automatically route children with high fevers and people 75 and older to the traditional ED, since both types of patient can have complex problems that can be passed over in a quick-care setting.

Hospital managers expect that ExpressCare will help the 70-bed facility cope with its rapidly-growing ED load, which has grown 40 percent over the past 10 years to 28,000 visits last year. Interestingly, donations covered much of the cost of the ExpressCare facility, suggesting that the community saw the need for the facility, not just administrators.

To learn more about ExpressCare:
- read this piece from The Boston Globe