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Emergency department observation units: A double-edged sword?

from By Dorothy L. Tengler

What emergency department wouldn't like millions of dollars in cost savings? Theoretically, this could happen by keeping selected patients under observation in a dedicated hospital unit with defined protocols. The issue has been that many patients seeking ED treatment are clearly not well enough for immediate discharge yet are not sick enough to be admitted. According to a recent study, such patients are not expected to stay in the ED for more than 24 hours and are treated as outpatients using observational services. About one-third of EDs in the United States have observation units in place, using protocols specific to different conditions. more

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