HCA executives in North Texas have signed an agreement to lease a building with more than 10,000 square feet and plan to convert it into a stand-alone emergency department. The former Wolf Camera Store location north of downtown Dallas will be the sixth ER HCA has opened in the city. The company (Ticker: HCA) is pursuing a similar strategy in several of its other important markets.
HCA Holdings this week announced an agreement to admit to its 10 Dallas-area hospitals patients from the freestanding ER departments run by First Choice Emergency Room. The latter company, which is based in Dallas, runs 17 facilities in Texas and Colorado.
The agreement aims to ensure bed availability for First Choice ER patients needing acute care services provided by nearby HCA hospitals. First Choice ER transferring patients will avoid HCA hospitals' emergency departments and will instead be directly admitted when non-emergent criteria are met.
Local health IT company InQuicker continues to grow quickly — it now works with almost 180 hospitals around the country, up from 135 in July — and has found plenty of fans in the industry. But Stephanie Armour at Bloomberg says some people have an issue with the idea that certain patients are either getting dibs on emergency services or using the ER when they don't need to.
“I’m just floored,” Sara Rosenbaum, a health law and policy professor at George Washington University in Washington, said in an interview. “It’s concierge emergency departments, and by definition, if you’re making an appointment, it’s not an emergency. These are the same hospitals that go crying that they’re awash in patients and don’t know what to do.”
Growth remains strong at InQuicker, the Nashville-based company that lets consumers schedule emergency room and urgent care clinic visits. The six-year-old company is now working with eight University Hospitals facilities in the Cleveland area, which has lifted its network of hospitals to 158 in 21 states. That's up from 135 in July and more than double its year-ago number. Interestingly, no Nashville hospitals have signed on yet.
Things appear to be going swimmingly at InQuicker, the young local company whose website lets patients schedule emergency room and urgent care clinic visits. In a note touting improvements in waiting times, InQuicker officials say they now work with 135 hospitals around the country. That's up from 115 when we working on our Entrepreneur of the Year package in March.
Many hospital operators — including the two biggest based in Middle Tennessee — are these days asking emergency room visitors to pay for at least part of their care up front, reports Kaiser Health News. The approach, they say, lets them better manage potential bad debts but also eases the strain on ER networks, who often treat patients that could be getting their treatment from other providers. One potential wrinkle with that idea: Human behavior isn't always rational and many people won't go to a doctor's office on Monday if they leave an ER untreated on Saturday night.
"This is a real problem," said Dr. David Seaberg, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, who estimated that 2 to 7 percent of patients screened in ERs and found not to have serious problems are admitted to hospitals within 24 hours.
Community Health Systems' Affinity Medical Center in Ohio is planning to start construction on an emergency room expansion. The project, which will increase the number of beds in the department from 16 to 24, will allow the facility to serve an additional 10,000 patients per year.