By CASEY ROSS
BRECKSVILLE, Ohio — Get in, get a new knee, go home.
As treatments get less invasive and recovery times shrink, a new kind of hospital is cropping up — the “bedless hospital.”
They have all the capabilities of traditional hospitals: operating rooms, infusion suites, and even emergency rooms and helipads. What they don’t have is overnight space.
“It reduces cost, and it reduces the risk of infection,” said Dr. Akram Boutros, CEO of MetroHealth System, which just opened a $48 million bedless hospital near Cleveland that he expects will serve about 3,000 people in the first year. “People go home to a less-risky environment, where they tend to get better faster.”
The growth in outpatient healthcare is a fundamental shift in US medicine. MetroHealth, which gets part of its funding from taxpayers and serves a large Medicaid population, has expanded outpatient visits from 850,000 to 1.2 million in the last four years, a 40 percent increase.
Outpatient visits, experts say, subsidize more expensive inpatient treatment.
But some observers worry that the development of bedless hospitals is part of a financial shell game hospitals must play to make the dollars match up with the care they offer. And they wonder if such facilities are diverting resources away from a large population of patients who still require more complex treatment.
“The untold story is what’s happening to all of those patients who do still need to be in the hospital,” said Harold Miller, chief executive of the Center for Health Care Quality and Payment Reform. “And are the places where they are going getting paid enough to support good care?”