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Variation in State Policies Regarding Freestanding ERs

No standard requirements for location, staffing patterns, clinical capabilities

woman waiting in a medical office

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 12, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- There is considerable variation in state policies regarding freestanding emergency departments, according to a report published in the October issue of Health Affairs.

Catherine Gutierrez, from Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues describe the effect of state regulations on freestanding emergency departments in regards to the facility's location, staffing, and services. Data were included for 400 freestanding emergency departments from 32 states, as of December 2015.

The researchers found that 21 states had regulations allowing freestanding emergency departments, while 29 states had no regulations that specifically applied to freestanding emergency departments; one state had hospital regulations that precluded such facilities. There was considerable variation in state policies regarding freestanding emergency departments, with no standard requirements for location, patterns of staffing, or clinical capabilities. The number of freestanding emergency departments per capita was lower in states that required facilities to have a certificate of need, compared to states without such a requirement.

"For patients to better understand the capabilities and costs of freestanding emergency departments and to be able to choose the most appropriate site of emergency care, consistent state regulation of freestanding emergency departments is needed," the authors write.

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