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Media Advisory Date: October 13, 1997
Emergency Diagnostic and Treatment Units (EDTUs) may offer an alternative to inpatient
hospitalization for adults suffering from a reversible disease such as acute asthma, according to a
study conducted by Michael F. McDermott, M.D., and colleagues at Chicago's Cook County
Hospital and the University of Illinois. The study, funded by the Agency for Health Care Policy
and Research (AHCPR), tested the hypothesis that selected asthma patients could avoid an
inpatient stay by undergoing an intensive treatment protocol of up to 12 hours in an EDTU. Their
findings, which appear in the current issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, show that most
EDTU patients had clinical outcomes equivalent to the inpatients, overall lower costs, greater
patient satisfaction and an improved quality of life. The authors chose the term "Emergency
Diagnostic and Treatment Unit" to reflect an evolution in these types of units, which more often
are referred to as "observation units" or "holding units."
"This study demonstrates how scientific research can provide new solutions to practical
problems. It also shows that quality improvements and cost effectiveness can occur
simultaneously in the real world," said AHCPR Administrator John M. Eisenberg, M.D.
"Our research shows that more than half of the asthmatic patients that we now admit to
the hospital could be treated just as effectively in EDTUs—at about half the cost," explained Dr.
McDermott, who co-directs Cook County's EDTU and its Adult Asthma Clinic. In this study,
the EDTU used a protocol with specific entry and discharge criteria. The EDTU patients also had
to meet a prescribed schedule for therapy and response rates.
"These features, McDermott added, "ensure that the EDTU meets standards governing
the use of observation units and makes this intervention reproducible." The protocol also is likely
to be effective for patients with less severe forms of asthma, the study notes.
AHCPR is charged with supporting
research that improves the quality of health care, reduces its costs, and enhances access to
essential services. AHCPR's broad programs of research and assessment bring practical, science-based information to medical practitioners, consumers, and other health care purchasers.
For additional information, contact AHCPR Public Affairs: Salina Prasad, (301) 427-1864