Aiming to bridge health care gap in underserved communities, “micro hospitals” are an emerging trend in some suburban and urban markets as a backup to community facilities, or in rural regions where there is not enough demand for full-sized hospitals. Micro hospitals are popping up around the country, with facilities in Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Texas, and others, but many people may not have heard of a micro hospital or have a solid understanding of what it is and how it can help satisfy emerging needs in different markets.
What is a “Micro Hospital”?
Micro Hospitals typically operate seven days a week, 24 hours a day, and on average are 30,000 to 40,000 square feet in size with eight to ten inpatient beds for short-stays and emergencies. A traditional mid-size hospital might have 265 beds, and 49 percent of the hospitals in the U.S. have less than 100 beds. While two micro hospitals may vary in terms of design or services provided, they are often located in areas and markets that are unable to support full-service hospitals. The Georgia Senate passed a bill on March 16, 2018, aimed at helping rural hospitals that have been struggling to keep their doors open, including a provision to enable micro hospitals in rural counties throughout the state.
“I don’t anticipate there being 30 micro-hospitals in five years, but there might be five or six that gives rural citizens in those counties access they otherwise would lose,” said State Senator Dean Burke, who sponsored the bill. It would also create a grant program to help rural doctors with medical malpractice insurance, intended to incentivize doctors to work in underserved communities.
This may be a step in the right direction for health care in rural communities; in September 2017 Georgia Health News reported that a “hospital crisis” was killing rural communities in the state. Rural hospitals are in danger across the country, their closures both a symptom of economic trouble in small-town America and a catalyst for further decline. The University of North Carolina’s health research department found that since 2010, 82 rural hospitals have closed nationwide. As many as 700 more are at risk of closing within the next 10 years, according to Alan Morgan, the CEO of the National Rural Health Association, a nonprofit organization that advocates on rural health issues.
More Personalized Care for Consumers
Laura Hennum at Dignity Health St. Rose-Dominican told CNBC that these micro facilities are not meant to replace larger hospitals or emergency rooms but can provide a more personalized care experience. Hennum said the micro facilities could treat things like gunshot wounds and high-risk pregnancies, adding that patients usually wait no more than 10 minutes.
Larger hospitals still have their place. Traditional hospitals have the resources to perform intensive and complex procedures, according to health care solutions giant Lancaster Pollard. For example, a person experiencing a stroke or in need of certain cancer therapies will be treated by larger facilities or specialized centers. Often, micro-hospitals are not fully equipped to handle extreme medical situations such as heart attacks or life-threatening injuries from an accident.