Free-Standing Emergency Departments and Alternatives for Rural Markets

by Opal Greenway

  • Overall inpatient admissions have declined significantly
  • Between 2010 and 2016, hospital outpatient ED visits increased by more than 7 percent per capita across all payors, and 14.1% in Medicare
  • In 2017, about 580 free-standing EDs were in operation – 377 affiliated with a hospital
  • Increased usage of urgent care centers and physician clinics with extended hours may be contributing to a decline in ED utilization for lower acuity
  • Cases that previously resulted in hospital admission are now treated on an outpatient basis, leading to a greater proportion of higher acuity cases in the ED overall
  • Access to ED coverage is critical nationwide, but is increasingly difficult in rural areas

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