Hospitals offer freestanding EDs to remedy overcrowding

As emergency department closures are forcing urgent-care patients into overcrowded facilities, hospitals are offering emergency care outside hospital walls.

Instead, many healthcare systems are using freestanding EDs to provide patients with better access to services, as well as convenience and shorter wait times, reports Kaiser Health News.

As of 2009, the number of freestanding EDs jumped 65 percent to 241, from 146 five years ago, according to data from the American Hospital Association. These types of facilities have cropped up in at least 16 states, according to a study from the California Healthcare Foundation.

However, freestanding EDs are no longer confined to rural areas suffering from limited access to emergency care. They are now located in suburban and urban areas that already have adequate healthcare services. By operating freestanding EDs in areas with existing sufficient care, healthcare systems can seize patients from competing hospital EDs.

What are the reasons why urgent-care patients might bypass a hospital-based ED for a freestanding facility? They are generally open 24/7; they can handle most emergencies; they're staffed by emergency physicians and nurses, and they often have lab and radiology services on site, notes Kaiser Health.

For more:
- read the Kaiser Health News article
- check out the California Healthcare Foundation study (.pdf)