Previous research has shown that observation units in a hospital can be an efficient way to care for certain patients, but only about one-third of hospitals in the United States have such units. Now, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) estimate that maximizing the potential of an observation unit in a hospital could result in $4.6 million in savings annually for the hospital and $3.1 billion in overall savings for the health care system in the United States. These findings are published online by Health Affairs and will also appear in the journal’s October issue.
“We believe that this is the first attempt to quantify the financial impact of an observation unit,” said Christopher Baugh, MD, lead researcher on the paper and a physician in the Emergency Department at BWH. “Wider use of observation units may play a significant role in saving cost for the health care system and future policies that are focused on doing so should include support for observation units as an alternative tin short-stay inpatient admission,” Dr. Baugh said.