Microhospitals are small-scale, fully licensed inpatient hospital facilities open 24/7. They typically house between eight and 10 inpatient beds for observation and short-stay use, and include a similar number of emergency treatment and triage rooms, along with primary care and specialty care physicians, and diagnostic and other outpatient clinic services, says Jason Lisovicz, senior vice president of marketing and communications of Emerus, a microhospital developer.
These facilities are considered “micro” because they tend to have a smaller footprint in terms of facility size and number of inpatient beds, and do not provide the full complement of acute services of a typical hospital. “However, their care is far more substantial than that of outpatient or emergency care,” says Lisa DiSanto, senior director, Sg2, a healthcare and hospital system consultancy. “While microhospitals can accommodate an overnight stay, they were developed to rapidly assess and treat lower-acuity conditions in a more efficient, cost-effective setting.”
Meeting a need
From an economic perspective, microhospitals allow health systems to create footprints in attractive markets without having to build full-scale inpatient facilities. “If executed well, this can represent a significant opportunity to attract new patients at a lower cost and increase market presence,” DiSanto says.
Market trends are influencing the emergence of this new hospital model. Over the next 10 years, Sg2’s market projections show a 2% decline in adult inpatient discharges across the United States. That’s compared to a 15% increase in outpatient volumes during this same time period. Furthermore, as the healthcare environment continues to shift from a fee-for-service model to value-based care, existing care models are also evolving.
Advances in virtual health technologies and a more favorable reimbursement environment for these services have also helped to alleviate some of the staffing and workforce barriers associated with care at this scale, DiSanto continues.
Finally, patients themselves are driving this trend forward. With more patients opting for high-deductible health plans, they are shopping for healthcare services in a new way. “These consumers are looking for providers to meet them where they are in terms of time, location, and cost,” DiSanto says. “Microhospitals provide a consumer-friendly access point, offering appropriate care in a more efficient environment than a full-service hospital.”