Freestanding ERs aim to solve health care problem in Texas

Published: Mar. 23, 2016 at 7:40 AM CDT
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There's a new trend in medical care that's popping up across the state - freestanding emergency rooms.

The ERs are helping to solve a growing problem.

Dr. Andy Wilson with Caprock ER says, "The problem is that there are just not enough emergency rooms for the patients that need emergency care."

The American College of Emergency Physicians acknowledged the problem in it's latest state-by-state report card. The organization gave Texas an "F" grade for access to emergency care.

In hopes of solving that problem and creating more options, Texas now allows freestanding emergency rooms. It's the first state to do so.

They are, in some ways, the same as the ERs attached to hospitals.

Dr. Wilson says, "Both provide emergency care and both have good people working in them."

They're different, though, in the fact that they're independently owned.

Dr. Wilson and Dr. Lon Young opened their independent facility, Caprock ER, in South College Station about a year ago.

Dr. Wilson says, "The ability to have great access, greater capacity in the system is not only a public health concern, but you as an individual know you can go and get care when it's your unfortunate time that you have an emergency."

Ever since Texas passed the law allowing these freestanding emergency rooms, they've been popping up all over the state. In 2011, there were just 25 of them. Today, there are nearly 150. The doctors at Caprock ER say we should expect to see plenty more in the future.

Dr. Wilson says, "I think there will probably be 5,000 - 6,000 of them in the country by the end of the next decade."

Dr. Jane Bolin with Texas A&M School of Public Health has been researching these new, freestanding ERs. She says there is one place in particular they need to be built.

"Rural areas are historically under-served in the availability of medical care. It costs more to run a hospital in a rural area, but to have a freestanding emergency department, then I think it would provide emergency care out in those areas where they perhaps need it more than others."

Dr. Wilson couldn't agree more.

"Operators that operate in the free-standing like us and others can joint venture with hospital to manage and run those ERs like a freestanding er and I think that's a model that will work and that's what we're seeing in some other states."

You'll be seeing at least one more freestanding ER in the Brazos Valley soon. Details are still being finalized, so they're not releasing the location yet, but Caprock ER is opening another facility by the end of the year.