"One issue that they confront when doing so is a lack of availability of inpatient beds. Freestanding emergency rooms compete with emergency rooms attached to hospitals for inpatient capacity. When hospitals are overcrowded, they must divert outside admissions. This alliance provides First Choice patients peace of mind that they will have access to a decent hospital bed if they need one. Furthermore, the alliance provides HCA with a pipeline of patients in legitimate need of a hospital admission. Thus, First Choice benefits by being able to improve its perceived quality, while HCA benefits from the increased volume."
First Choice ER will have access to the HCA Transfer Center, a 24/7 call center to coordinate patient transfers. The two companies said the access will facilitate physician-to-physician conversations and communication with the admitting hospital.
Tony Kong, director, Healthcare & Life Sciences for consultants West Monroe Partners, LLC, says the alliance is part of the overall trend in healthcare for hospitals to expand patient access in anticipation of the Patient protection and Affordable Care Act.
"The anticipation is that we will have more consumers with coverage come Jan. 1, 2014, which means there has to be greater access to care. That care has to come anytime of the day, when there is a need," Kong says.
"We are seeing this across multiple geographies where hospitals either open up their own emergency room center that is more designed like an urgent care clinic or they are partnering with another organization, such as HCA and First Choice."
First Choice operates 17 facilities in Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, and Colorado Springs. The facilities are staffed by board certified emergency physicians and registered nurses, and are equipped with advanced diagnostic equipment.
HCA North Texas Division operates 10 hospitals, one children's hospital, one psychiatric hospital, 12 ambulatory surgery centers, 13 imaging centers, and two freestanding emergency rooms in the DFW area.