Making greater use of dedicated hospital observation units for many short-stay patients could save $3.1 billion a year

Christopher W. Baugh*, Arjun K. Venkatesh, Joshua A. Hilton, Peter A. Samuel, Jeremiah D. Schuur, J. Stephen Bohan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations

Abstract

Using observation units in hospitals to provide care to certain patients can be more efficient than admitting them to the hospital and can result in shorter lengths-of-stay and lower costs. However, such units are present in only about one-third of US hospitals. We estimated national cost savings that would result from increasing the prevalence and use of observation units for patients whose stay there would be shorter than twenty-four hours. Using a systematic literature review, national survey data, and a simulation model, we estimated that if hospitals without observation units had them in place, the average cost savings per patient would be $1,572, annual hospital savings would be $4.6 million, and national cost savings would be $3.1 billion. Future policies intended to increase the cost-efficiency of hospital care should include support for observation unit care as an alternative to short-stay inpatient admission.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2314-2323
Number of pages10
JournalHealth Affairs
Volume31
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy

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