Observation units better for acute asthmatics

Asthma patients treated in emergency department (ED) observation units for 12 hours have better outcomes and cost less to treat than those who are admitted to the hospital if their asthma hasn’t resolved after three hours, according a study by Robert J. Rydman, PhD, published last year in Medical Care (36:599-609). These patients should remain in the ED up to 12 hours before physicians decide to hospitalize them, the study’s authors conclude.

They randomly assigned 113 adult asthma ED patients whose asthma didn’t resolve in three hours to an observation unit or to inpatient care. The observation unit patients had better health status in five of eight areas measured after treatment and had lower treatment costs than hospitalized patients ($1,202 vs. $2,247).