'Micro-hospitals' offer alternative to urgent care model

Consumers like the convenience and accessibility of urgent care clinics. But hospitals may have found another model that better meets the needs of patients: the “micro-hospital.”

While the state of Colorado prefers to call them "community hospitals," these licensed facilities offer emergency medical care, inpatient care, surgery, laboratory and radiology services, Michael Slubowski, president of CEO of SCL Health told Hospital & Health Networks. SCL, which is based in Denver, plans to open four locations in neighborhood settings with it's partner Emerus. The facilities are priced higher than urgent care centers, but less than a full-service hospital, and can treat a wider range of conditions because they have inpatient beds, he said.  

"Micro-hospitals like this are more suited for large urban and suburban metro areas," he told the publication. "This model would probably be too large and complex for a rural market. It definitely is a trend, among many trends occurring in healthcare, to create more accessible, cost-effective access points and alternative delivery models."

Most micro-hospitals operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week and usually have eight to 10 inpatient  beds for observation and short-stays, according to the Advisory Board. "No two micro-hospitals are exactly the same in their design or service mix, but one trend is becoming clear. Most health systems are using them as entry points into markets where demand would not be able to support a full-scale hospital," the Advisory Board noted in a recent report. 

“I think [a micro-hospital] will add a lot to a community that looks at having to travel long distances,” Jefferson County Commissioner Don Rosier, who represents the Broomfield, Colorado, area, told the Denver Post in February when SCL Health announced its plans. “It can really fit a nice niche.”

Dignity Health-St. Rose Dominican has similarly announced plans to open micro-hospitals in North Las Vegas, according to KSNV. These will focus on primary care but also feature a 24-hour, seven-day emergency department. "If you think about supermarket chains for X-number of roofs they have a facility. It doesn't make sense for us right now to add more brick and mortar, we'd rather have convenient care where you need it," Brian Brannman, senior vice president of operations at Dignity Health, told the news outlet.

- read the H&HN interview
- here’s the Denver Post article
- check out the Advisory Board report