The future of health care looks small and digital.
Micro hospitals are emerging in some suburban and urban markets as a backup to community facilities — or in regions where there is not enough demand for full-sized hospitals. The facilities range from 15,000 to 60,000 square feet, substantially smaller than community hospitals, and offer as few as eight beds.
"We still have to be fully prepared to see and treat any patient that walks through our doors," Laura Hennum, a regional CEO of the Dignity Health St. Rose-Dominican Neighborhood Hospitals, told CNBC. She's responsible for four micro facilities in the greater Las Vegas area.
These smaller facilities can provide lower-cost care for patients compared with traditional community hospitals, Dr. Richard Zane, chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Colorado, told CNBC.
Mega hospitals, which can offer as many as 1,000-plus beds, "have evolved into large, profitable, expensive, technology-laden institutions," Zane said.
By contrast, micro hospitals can perform many of the same services as larger ones, and through the advent of technology and shorter hospital stays, can lower patient costs, Zane said.
"Micro hospitals are the decentralization of health care," he said. "You can match the cost of care to the perfect environment." Zane, who has experience with implementing systems of emergency care and access, added patients typically follow up with their care providers virtually, thus lowering costs even more.