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Acute Care

Service Information

The patient population served by Odessa Memorial Healthcare Center consists of Pediatric, Adolescent, Adult, & Geriatric Patients.

OMHC Caters to Patients Requiring Assessment, Diagnostic Testing, & Medical Interventions to Maintain or Restore Optimum Levels of Functioning.

Patients with Cardiovascular, Gastrointestinal, Respiratory, Metabolic/Endocrine, Musculoskeletal and limited Psychiatric Diagnosis, typify the patient population.

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What is Acute Care? And Why is it Important?

The past few years have seen an increase in the number of emergency and trauma cases. The number of reported cases of people who fall ill with acute conditions or injure themselves is also higher. Thus, the need for acute care departments, equipment, and personnel has never been more critical, and this was made evident during the peak of the Covid pandemic.

Emergency care services need to be a part of every hospital and healthcare facility and should be unified with primary and surgical care units to create a robust healthcare system.

What is Acute Care?

An acute disease or injury is a medical condition that occurs abruptly, lasts for a brief time, and does not regularly recur in the patient. It requires short but active modes of treatment. It’s the opposite of a chronic illness that gradually develops in a patient, and either remains for an extended period (sometimes months on end) or recurs quite frequently.

Acute care is a branch of healthcare where a patient receives active but short-term treatment for an acute disease, injury, or post-surgery recovery. This could be medical care for minor conditions like a headache, an injury from a fall, a sore throat, for major conditions like a heart attack, pneumonia, or treatment post-surgery. The key differentiator is the short-term nature of the illness/injury and treatment.

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Types of Acute Care Functions

Clinical healthcare functions within a hospital or an acute care facility include:

1. Emergency Care

  • Treating a patient with an acute life or limb-threatening illness/injury that could need surgery. For example, a patient with a stomach ulcer experiencing sudden sharp pains (indicating a potential perforated ulcer).
  • Medical treatment provided in the emergency room for a walk-in or a patient brought in an ambulance, for example, a person who has fallen and needs stitches.

2. Short-Term Stabilization

  • Treating a patient for acute needs before moving them for more major treatment. For instance, providing intravenous fluids to a patient before moving to the operating theatre.

3. Pre-Hospital Emergency Care

  • Medical care is provided in an ambulance or a temporary facility before moving the patient to a hospital.

4. Critical Care

  • The care of a patient in critical condition, often treated in the ICU. For example, a patient in the ICU post major heart surgery.

Why is Acute Care Important?

Acute diseases or injuries are sudden and can sometimes be severe enough to lead to death or permanent disability – for example, a heart attack or a motorcycle accident.

In acute care cases, effective treatment during the first 24 hours is essential for the patient to survive or not have any permanent disability or impairment. The urgency of this type of treatment makes acute care important and a necessity within most (if not all) medical facilities in a locality.

Time is critical in acute care. These medical services are tailored toward controlling the disease or injury to prevent long-term damage or the onset of a chronic illness. Time plays a vital role in the success of such medical treatment.

Acute care does not just involve treating the immediate illness or injury. It involves treating the disease or injury with a curative strategy to reduce the patient’s risk of developing a recurring condition, the loss of a limb, or the need for repeat hospital visits. The sooner these efforts at a curative measure begin, the better the chances of reducing risk.

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The Challenges in Acute Care

The primary challenge in acute care today is the failure to consider the criticality of time in curative services. Most ambulances and outpatient departments, and the personnel involved, are well equipped with knowledge and tools to provide immediate care for the immediate acute illness or injury. The challenge is to identify curative measures to reduce and eliminate the risk of long-term or permanent damage.

It is especially the case in more rural areas. The reason is often because of the focus given to primary care units (providing continued care, primarily for chronic and repeat illnesses). Medical practitioners are well trained to cope with primary care, and budgets are aligned toward developing these primary care units. It usually happens because of the volume of patients needing continued care and certain misperceptions like acute care is sufficiently managed with immediate trauma care.

The truth is acute care is more than quick ‘patchwork’ and involves faster responses, better decision-making, and excellent judgment of the personnel delivering acute care. Another critical point to note is that most resources (personnel and equipment) used in everyday primary care are sufficient to deal with acute care, and it’s just a matter of training and implementation.

Where Healthcare Facilities Fail When It Comes to Acute Care

Every healthcare facility should have an acute care unit and an acute care plan, which should be focused on immediate care and curative care. This will also help prevent the onset of chronic illness, loss of limbs or function, and death.

In most publications that provide medical guidelines for curative medical strategies, the focus is rarely on the time-sensitive nature of the treatment. For example, in the Prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases: guidelines for primary health care in low-resource settings publication by the WHO that provides the guidelines for the management of diabetes, only the last few strategies revolve around time-sensitive measures, even though an acute complication like diabetic ketoacidosis can be life-threatening if not caught and treated quickly.

This is, again, because of the belief that better primary care leads to a reduction in overall diseases and the mortality rate in the region. The contribution of acute care toward reducing diseases and the mortality rate is often underestimated.

The Impact of Excellent Acute Care

Healthcare facilities, especially in rural areas and areas with people earning a low to mid-level income, should focus on better acute care and primary care. It will reduce the burden of chronic and non-communicable diseases among the population.

From a community standpoint, acute care is a critical component of the healthcare system for people. Receiving immediate and proper care will save them from a lifetime of hospital visits and financial burdens. This will undoubtedly foster a healthy and thriving community and increase trust in the healthcare system among locals.

For hospitals, acute care opens up scope for more employment and growth, both in size and revenue.

Acute care plays a significant role in preventing permanent disability and death, sometimes as much as primary care. Healthcare facilities should focus on procuring better technology, equipment, and training for improved acute care services.

Make sure you check out the Odessa Memorial Healthcare Center for more information on acute care.