Acute care is a branch of medicine which actively treats patients with severe, short-term medical needs. Symptoms of acute conditions often emerge suddenly, but the treatment and recovery periods are also generally brief. Unlike chronic care, which is provided in settings such as assisted living facilities or in a patient’s home, acute care is provided in emergency departments and hospitals.
Types of Acute Care
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), acute care includes six main types of treatment:
- Emergency care, including potentially life-threatening medical or surgical needs, such as heart attacks
- Urgent care, which includes unscheduled visits that may not be life-threatening but still require prompt care, such as fevers in children or ankle sprains
- Short-term stabilization, such as delivering fluids to a patient who is critically injured before they have surgery
- Prehospital care, including treatments provided by first responders
- Critical care, such as treatments for severe respiratory issues and other conditions requiring constant monitoring, usually in intensive care units
- Trauma care and acute care surgery, which covers life-threatening injuries, appendicitis, and other serious and urgent surgical needs
Other examples of acute care diagnoses include congestive heart failure, kidney stones, bronchitis, pneumonia, dehydration, and gastrointestinal issues. Acute care may also include wound care and pain management.
The Importance of Acute Care in the Community
Clearly, the conditions treated by acute care professionals are often serious and require immediate intervention. Minutes can make the difference between life and death, or between a complete recovery and a lasting disability.
Access to acute care is important in any area, but in rural communities like ours, it’s especially critical.
Without local acute care providers, residents of rural communities have to travel far to receive care, losing precious time along the way. Consider the difference between the several minutes it might take you to get into Blakely and the hour or more it would take you to get to the hospitals in Columbus or Albany.
There are roughly 60 million residents in rural America, and nearly a quarter of them say that access to hospitals is a problem in their community. Just 9% of suburban residents have the same challenge. When acute care is within close reach, it eliminates the need for long journeys to receive medical attention, drastically improving patient outcomes.
While patients see the greatest benefits of having local access to acute care, it’s also good for the community overall.
Acute care facilities such as hospitals create more jobs for local members of their communities. From nurses to specialists, many well-paid professionals are needed to staff and maintain thriving acute care centers. In rural communities, healthcare jobs account for 14% of jobs on average, with hospitals often a rural community’s largest employer.
Communities with high-quality acute care facilities such as emergency rooms can also attract businesses and encourage locals to stay. This is especially true for any populations facing elevated risks for acute conditions, such as communities with many senior citizens.
If you’re experiencing a medical emergency, always call 911 for help. To contact someone at our acute care hospital in a non-emergency situation, call (229) 724-4205.