As the world continues to change, we must continue to adapt. Consumers are looking for conveniences and that means healthcare organizations are expanding services to communities where they live. In recent years, the healthcare industry has seen the steady rise of neighborhood hospitals, also known as micro-hospitals, across the country. EUA is currently supporting clients through exploring ideal design and layouts of the neighborhood hospital concept which recently arrived in the Midwest. From our involvement on planning and design for several neighborhood hospitals, Healthcare Studio Director Paul Stefanski and I would like to expound on what these facilities entail and how they impact an overall healthcare organization’s system-level planning strategy.
What is a Neighborhood Hospital?
Neighborhood hospitals, or micro-hospitals, are just as they sound—literally small, 24/7 inpatient settings, strategically placed within a community. To be classified as a micro-hospital, the facility must include the following: inpatient rooms, discharge planning, diagnostic imaging, lab, pharmacy, food services and the ability to follow decontamination and organ procurement protocol.
Drawing from recent experience, we have identified several unique propositions neighborhood hospitals give to existing healthcare systems.
The Impact on Healthcare Systems
Given their small scale, neighborhood hospitals can be a strategic addition to a healthcare system’s portfolio for several reasons. First, neighborhood hospitals can help systems enter a new geographic market and introduce services without having to commit to building a large, traditional hospital, serving as a means of limiting expenditures while testing the waters in a new community. They can also help fill in geographic gaps in care, allowing systems to expand their reach, supporting communities as well as their own system better.
Another benefit to neighborhood hospitals is that they help relieve some of the pressure from main hospital emergency departments (EDs) and observation beds. For some people, it may even be a crucial matter of life-saving time having a facility that can treat emergency situations closer to home or work. Neighborhood hospitals can provide a comparable level of care to a traditional hospital while also serving as a triage center to immediately treat patients and assess if they need to be transferred to a higher, more specialized level of care. In many markets, people only have the option to go to the main campus EDs, unsure of what they need. Given the smaller geographic service area, patients will travel less and likely wait less, receiving care more quickly, as well as a guided plan for future care needs.
Neighborhood hospitals also have the advantage of being customizable beyond the federal requirements to meet the specific needs of a healthcare system, their target market and key demographics. While all neighborhood hospitals have the core components that define them, many also provide additional services to accommodate the specific population they serve.
Since these compact facilities require smaller, more efficient care teams, healthcare workers likely wear multiple hats. This may not be the ideal fit for all healthcare workers, but employees who enjoy this type of work will thrive in this environment. In addition to having a diverse role, working at a neighborhood hospital may appeal to those looking for a shorter drive, intimate team dynamic and opportunities to cross train. For example, nurses may be able to care for both inpatient and emergency patients in the same day, unlike in a traditional hospital where care is more specialized.
While neighborhood hospitals can be fiscally advantageous to healthcare systems operationally, patients can also benefit from the rising popularity of these compact, efficient facilities. One of the largest advantages of neighborhood hospitals is that they help alleviate the stigma many people associate with getting care at large facilities on campus environments. By making a facility smaller, easier to navigate and more accessible, it becomes more approachable. For many people, going to the doctor’s office, no matter the reason, is anxiety inducing enough, let alone having to find parking in one of multiple garages at a large campus with multiple facilities where they navigate multiple entrances, wings and floors. Given the size of neighborhood hospitals and the single main entry, barriers are reduced for patients, family and friends.
Introducing Neighborhood Hospitals to Your Facility Mix
As we continue to learn about this care model, we anticipate a growing popularity of these compact and efficient feeder hospitals to support system strategic goals and geographic reach. For systems considering adopting this approach, we recommend partnering with experienced professionals to understand the nuances and learning from past developments. Since this is still rather uncharted territory for many systems, having experts on board early will help to strike the balance between identifying and mitigating potentials hurdles and speed to market. The need for healthcare will remain constant, but with proper design and operational efficiencies, these facilities have the potential to positively shift the experiences for healthcare professionals and administrators as well as patients.
We’d love to hear your thoughts. Would you rather visit a neighborhood hospital or a traditional hospital to receive care?
Mequon, Wisconsin - Community Hospital