An increasing number of emergency departments (EDs) are providing extended care and monitoring of patients in ED observation units (EDOUs). EDOUs can be useful for older adults as an alternative to hospitalization and as a means of risk stratification for older adults with unclear presentations. They can also provide a period of therapeutic intervention and reassessment for older patients in whom the appropriateness and safety of immediate outpatient care are unclear. This article discusses the general characteristics of EDOUs, reviews appropriate entry and exclusion criteria for older adults in EDOUs, and discusses regulatory implications of observation status for patients with Medicare.
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