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Does U.S. Hospital Capacity Need to be Expanded?

November/December 2003
Health Affairs, Vol. 22, No. 6
Gloria J. Bazzoli, Linda R. Brewster, Gigi Y. Liu, Sylvia Kuo

Before hospitals make drastic expansions, they need to consider several less costly alternatives. Some industry experts believe that U.S. hospital capacity—especially emergency and inpatient services—is being stretched to its limits. Based on findings from HSC’s 2002-03 site visits to 12 nationally representative communities, this study examines constrained hospital services, contributing factors and hospitals’ responses. Most hospitals studied had emergency capacity problems, but problems in other service areas were limited to only a few hospitals. Hospitals have added or converted capacity, improved capacity management, dealt with nursing shortages and worked with public officials to reduce emergency department diversions. Although additional capacity might be needed in some markets, better management of existing resources could be a more effective solution.

Free access to this article is available at the Health Affairs Web site.


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The Center for Studying Health System Change Ceased operation on Dec. 31, 2013.