What Are Microhospitals?

In a changing healthcare landscape, microhospitals have emerged as an attractive option for consumers. Not as large as traditional hospitals, microhospitals offer many of the features found in larger facilities but at a lower cost. Because these facilities are smaller in size, nurses have the opportunity to spend more time caring for patients.

How Are Microhospitals Different From Their Traditional Counterparts?

what are microhospitals?

Advisory Board, a healthcare research and consulting firm, says micro hospitals are considered a middle ground between traditional hospitals and freestanding facilities. While not as large as traditional hospitals, they offer a wider selection of services than urgent care centers, ambulatory centers or stand-alone emergency rooms.

In many ways, microhospitals are similar to their larger counterparts: They offer inpatient beds (often fewer than a dozen) and emergency services, and they are fully licensed, according to NPR. They also offer ancillary services, which often depend on the community’s needs; these range from primary care to women’s services and dietary services, according to Advisory Board.

For instance, the St. Elizabeth Hospital Micro-Hospital Program in Appleton, Wisconsin offer spiritual services, nutrition services, respiratory therapy and discharge planning. Emerus offers a full host of diagnostic services — including CT scans and ultrasounds — at its community-centered hospitals.

How Microhospitals Fit Into the Healthcare Landscape

Microhospitals are a result of the decline of inpatient hospital admissions and a shift toward outpatient care, according to the NPR article Microhospitals May Help Deliver Care In Underserved Areas. The article notes that between 2010 and 2014, inpatient hospital admissions decreased by more than two million. During this same period, outpatient hospital visits increased by about 41.7 million.

According to Healthcare Dive, these smaller facilities also fill a niche overlooked by urgent care centers or freestanding emergency departments: They are in urban and suburban areas with a high demand for hospital services — but not quite enough to justify large-scale facilities.

According to SCL Health News, microhospitals are small yet easy to access. NPR reports that they give consumers better access to emergency care, while simultaneously offering outpatient surgery, primary care and other services. They are ideal for people who live far from major metro areas but who need hospital health services.

Further, because microhospitals are often affiliated with large health systems, they can expand without incurring the costs of building a full-scale hospital. These savings transfer to patients; Healthcare Dive reports that microhospital visits are less expensive than those at a traditional hospital.

Are Microhospitals Good Places for Nurses to Work?

Microhospitals are a relatively new concept, so there is currently not a great deal of nursing feedback, but there are several indicators that these are good jobs for nurses.

By nature of their smaller size and fewer inpatient beds, nurses could expect a lighter workload. For instance, Emerus boasts a low nurse-to-patient ratio — in some cases as low as one-to-one. This could potentially reduce burnout and allow nurses to spend more time with each of their patients.

Another benefit of working in a smaller facility is the opportunity to advance into leadership roles more quickly. St. Elizabeth employs clinical nurse leaders, who work to provide evidence-based, patient-centered care. Their RNs play complex roles, such as developing and revising care plans.

Although they’re a relatively new concept, microhospitals are emerging as a viable option for health consumers. They offer many of the same benefits as larger hospitals but at a lower cost and with more convenience. Because microhospitals typically have fewer than 12 inpatient beds, nurses can spend more time providing quality care. This is a good environment for both nurses and patients.

Learn more about the CSUSM online RN to BSN program.


Saulsberry, K. (2016, May 20). To grow your hospital, think micro. Advisory Board

Andrews, M. (2016, July 19). Microhospitals May Help Deliver Care in Underserved Areas. NPR

Henry, J., (2016, August 2). Think small: Making the case for microhospitals. Healthcare Drive

Newsome, B., (2015, March 11). Big Convenience Comes in Small Packages With New Hospitals. SCL Health

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