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What is a Freestanding ER?

Saratoga Emergency Room | Physicians Premier ER

There are a fair number of people in the United States that are a little bit confused about the distinction between the different types of ERs popping up recently due to a change in regulation and licensing policies in the healthcare industry, and to the rise of demand for more  quality healthcare options by a growing domestic population. The difference between a traditional hospital emergency room and a freestanding ER seems to contribute a large part in the confusion.

This is important because freestanding emergency rooms have emerged as a welcome alternative to hospital emergency rooms. In 2007 alone, freestanding ERs accounted for roughly 1.6% of all US emergency departments—a figure that is expected to rise in the following years. 92% of these freestanding emergency rooms are conveniently clustered around urban areas—with annual visit volumes ranging from 700 to 56,545 people in need of immediate medical care.

A freestanding emergency room is an ER that’s unaffiliated with a hospital, but is licensed by the state to provide uninterrupted medical care to the local population. The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) has put together guidelines on what a freestanding ER must provide to be considered as such, namely:

  • 24/7 Availability – A freestanding ER must be open and available to provide medical care 24 hours a day, seven days a week, throughout the whole year, even during holidays.
  • Expert Staff – The ER must be staffed by qualified and board-certified emergency physicians and nurses.
  • Cardiac Life Support RNs – The ER must have nurses certified in advanced cardiac life support and pediatric life support.
  • Efficient transfer policy – The ER must have a policy in place for the efficient transfer of patients to a higher level of care if the need arises.

Aside from being unaffiliated with a hospital, there is virtually no difference between a freestanding ER and a traditional hospital ER. As always, it will depend on the facility itself, and on the expertise of the men and women who work there, to determine its excellence over all the other ER types.

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