Strong Memorial Hospital Opens New Observation Unit

16 Incremental Beds To Help with ED Congestion, Inpatient Admissions

January 19, 2004

"With this new unit, we will be able to move these patients out of the emergency department, and into an area dedicated to meeting their very specialized needs. At the same time, we are freeing up beds in the emergency department so we can see more patients on a more timely basis."

In an effort to streamline emergency department operations, Strong Memorial Hospital unveiled an expanded observation unit, increasing the total number of observation beds in its emergency department from eight to 24. The new unit is the largest of its kind in New York State, and one that Strong officials say will become a model for other emergency departments nationwide to follow as they seek to improve their emergency department operations.

With the new observation unit, Strong will triple its emergency room observation capacity, hopefully easing some of the congestion caused by the extended time these patients spend in the emergency department. Observation patients are typically those awaiting imaging and/or test results, or who require ongoing evaluation, such as patients with chest pain. In most cases, these patients will go home within 23 hours of arrival at Strong, avoiding unnecessary admissions to the hospital.

Strong has formed a new medical team to provide the patient care in the new observation area. Emergency medicine physician Robbin Dick, M.D., serves as the unit’s medical director, and is supported by a team of nurses, mid-level providers (nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants) and ancillary staff. In February, another emergency medicine physician will join the team.

Dick said that he believes the newly expanded observation unit will improve the care not only for observation unit patients, but for all emergency department patients overall.

"Observation patients are those that we know will need care for an extended period of time-anywhere up to 23 hours. With this new unit, we will be able to move these patients out of the emergency department, and into an area dedicated to meeting their very specialized needs," Dick said. "At the same time, we are freeing up beds in the emergency department so we can see more patients on a more timely basis."

In addition, it is hoped that the expanded observation unit will also improve the flow of patients awaiting admission to Strong, which operates at near capacity daily. Many times, observation patients are admitted to the hospital to help facilitate testing and monitoring, reducing the inventory of beds available for acutely ill patients.

The new unit is located above the emergency department, and occupies more than 5,000 square feet. Each patient area contains a bed, telephone and TV, along with a chair for a visitor.

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