Some of the best things in life come in small packages. It's not a saying you would necessarily put with healthcare. However, one hospital group in Oklahoma City has found the benefit of providing high quality emergency care in a smaller setting. We travelled to Dallas to get a look at a micro-hospital and find out what Oklahomans can expect once it opens here.
"ER's are the safety net, said Dr. James Nichols of Baylor Emergency Medical Center. "You can have a ton of sick people come in, a bus crash a wreck, whatever. They are seeing huge numbers, often full; the ER waits are incredibly long."
Dr. James Nichols should know, he spent 20 years working in a hospital ER. Now, he's found a change of pace inside a micro-hospital north of Dallas.
"Micro-hospitals are relatively new model for health care delivery, it's everything a hospital is but micro, more compacted," he said.
Micro-hospitals range from 15,000 to 50,000 square feet with 8-10 ER treatment rooms and the same number of in-patient rooms. Like a traditional ER, its open 24/7 and includes a pharmacy, lab and imaging services.
"Anything can walk in the door, we've had cardiac arrest here, we've delivered babies," Dr. Nichols said.
Micro-hospitals are popping up in several states including Texas and Colorado. Now, INTEGRIS is bringing that trend to Oklahoma.
"This is more of a retail type of approach to medicine," said Bruce Lawrence, INTEGRIS President and CEO.
Lawrence plans to build four micro-hospitals in the metro.
"It's going to be close, convenient and if it's truly something you can get in and out, you'll be able to do that very quickly," he said.
INTEGRIS will build its first micro-hospital in Moore. Three others will follow in the west, southeast and far northwest sections of Oklahoma City. The facilities will not compete with the larger hospital but instead take some of the burden off of them. However, that begs the question, are those places going to be swamped with people who don't actually have an emergency condition, who just want to see a doctor?
"That's what they're geared up for and they won't have the distraction of an ambulance coming through the door with a major automobile accident or a major heart attack that requires everyone's attention and resource," Lawrence said.
Micro-hospitals are typically built in suburban and urban areas but still less than 20 miles away from a larger hospital, in case a patient needs a higher level of care.
"They took me in pretty quick," remembers Glenn Davison, a micro-hospital patient.
Davison lives just a mile away from a micro-hospital facility in north Texas.
"What happened was that I had a lot of plaque in my artery and it collapsed and just cut the blood supply off," he said.
He was having a heart attack and even though micro-hospitals aren't equipped to care for the critically ill, doctors here stabilized him and transported him to a larger hospital.
"To me it was a lifesaver," he said.
Patient costs for a micro-hospital visit are higher than those at urgent care centers, but lower than traditional hospital costs.