Objectives: This study attempted to determine the safety and costs of a new short-stay unit for low risk patients who may be admitted to a hospital to rule out myocardial infarction or ischemia.
Background: One strategy to reduce the costs of ruling out acute myocardial infarction in low risk patients is to develop alternatives to coronary care units.
Methods: The short-term and 6-month clinical outcomes and costs for 592 patients admitted to a short-stay coronary observation unit at Brigham and Women's Hospital with a low (< or = 10%) probability of acute myocardial infarction were compared with those for 924 consecutive comparison patients who were eligible for the same unit but were admitted to other hospital settings or discharged home. Actual costs were calculated using detailed cost-accounting methods that incorporated nursing intensity weights.
Results: The rate of major complications, recurrent myocardial infarction or cardiac death during 6 months after the initial presentation of the 592 patients admitted to the coronary observation unit was similar to that of the 924 comparison patients before and after adjustment for clinical factors influencing triage and initial diagnoses (adjusted relative risk 0.86, 95% confidence interval 0.49 to 1.53). Their median total costs (25th, 75th percentile) at 6 months ($1,927; 1,455, 3,650) were significantly lower than for comparison patients admitted to the wards $4,712; 1,868, 11,187), to stepdown or intermediate care units ($4,031; 2,069, 9,169) or to the coronary care unit ($9,201; 3,171, 20,011) but were higher than for comparison patients discharged home from the emergency department ($403; 403,927) before and after the same adjustments (all adjusted p < 0.0001).
Conclusions: These data suggest that the coronary observation unit may be a safe and cost-saving alternative to current triage strategies for patients with a low risk of acute myocardial infarction admitted from the emergency department. Its replication in other hospitals should be tested.