About a third of U.S. hospitals have an observation unit, and most hospitals will eventually have one, the industry predicts.
If you find yourself in the emergency department and the doctor says he wants to keep you at the hospital for "observation," take heed. Depending on the hospital, observation can mean very different things for both your medical care and your wallet.
At its best, placing patients on observation allows hospital staff to closely monitor and intensively treat patients whose condition is unstable or unclear. They might have chest pain, for example, or need a little time to recover from a migraine or an asthma attack before being sent home.
Torrie Smith, 3, left, holds an apple at their home in Denver on Friday, Nov. 30, 2012. Torrie's parents talked about their experience getting dental treatment through Medicaid for Torrie after she fell and broke four front teeth.
Credit Joe Mahoney / I-News
When she was 3, Torrie Smith tripped on an uneven sidewalk, fell face down onto some steps and broke four front teeth.