Safety

Freestanding ERs present unique safety concerns

Hospital Safety Insider, March 10, 2016

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Staff and patients at hospitals can usually count on a certain level of security when they come seeking emergency care. But what happens when you take the ER out of the hospital?

A new trend in emergency care has led to the advent of "freestanding ERs," which are separate from hospitals but provide most of the same emergency treatment that can be expected at full-service facilities. Many have begun springing up in rural areas of the United States where residents need to be able to find doctors and emergency care, but costs have restricted healthcare systems from building traditional hospitals.

The facilities are being looked at as a convenient way to extend emergency care beyond the doors of full-service, acute care hospitals, especially in rural areas that have access issues. Take for instance, Davis Hospital and Medical Center in Layton, Utah. In 2013, Davis opened a freestanding ER about eight miles away in the town of Weber. Traffic in the area is often slowed down by freight trains passing through railroad crossings, and the trip to the hospital can take a long time, prompting the decision to open the facility.

According to a report in the September 2015 issue of Healthcare Facilities Management magazine, the 16,000-square-foot facility has 14 treatment rooms, a trauma bay, an orthopedic room, a negative pressure room with a separate bathroom for dealing with infectious diseases, and two overflow rooms. It also boasts a full-service laboratory and x-ray capability; soon it will be able to perform MRIs.

Perhaps the most impressive feature of the facility is the relatively quick visits. While many people will wait for hours in a traditional ER before being seen, the average stay in the freestanding ER is one hour and 38 minutes, according to the report.

"Our turnaround times are so short that it's actually becoming quite a popular place," said Leslie A. Christiansen, CEN, Davis Hospital emergency director, IASIS Healthcare, in the magazine's report. He added that in the two years since the facility opened, patient visits have doubled from 300 patients a month to more than 1,000.

But with convenience comes a cost. While freestanding ERs have succeeded in bringing 24-hour emergency care to areas of the country where a hospital may be hours away, they are often located in isolated places like strip mall parking lots, which presents security concerns; additionally, the security details at such facilities have been limited to skeleton crews and occasional check-ins by local police.

This is an excerpt from the monthly healthcare safety resource Briefings on Hospital Safety. Subscribers can read the rest of the article here. Non-subscribers can find out more about the journal, its benefits, and how to subscribe by clicking here.

 



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