More microhospitals are opening in Colorado. So what’s a microhospital?

According to one executive at a health consulting firm, the construction of these microhospitals is as much for market exposure as it is for healthcare.
3 min. read
SCL health has two microhospitals, including this one in Westminster and plans to open an additional two this fall. (Courtesy of SCL Health)

First free-standing emergency rooms, next microhospitals --Denver's healthcare scene keeps expanding with innovative (and expensive) healthcare options. SCL Health, the nonprofit hospital system known best for St. Joseph’s, currently operates two microhospitals in Littleton and Westminster and plans to open two more this fall.

Just what are these microhospitals?

Microhospitals, officially called community hospitals, contain significantly fewer beds, but offer most hospital services, according to SCL spokesperson Brian Newsome.

SCL Health's two pre-existing hospitals have full-service emergency rooms, operation rooms and 8 to 10 inpatient beds. The Aurora hospital will be much the same, although Newsome said the Northglenn location will have an additional third floor with more space for inpatient beds.

So why not just build a full-sized hospital?

Newsome said microhospitals bring hospital services to closer to home for mid-sized communities that do not require full-sized hospitals.

"Microhospitals are reflective of changes in healthcare and new ways of delivering care in the appropriate setting," he said.

American Hospital Association policy director Priya Bathija told NPR these hospitals could have potential to help rural populations with comparatively reduced access to hospital services. But NPR reported that most of these hospitals have emerged in urban and suburban areas. The same holds true for SCL Health's new hospitals.

According to one executive at a health consulting firm, microhospitals exist in large part for market exposure.

"The big opportunity for these is for health systems that want to establish a strong foothold in a really attractive market," Fred Bentley, an Avalere Health consulting executive told Kaiser Health News. "If you're an affluent consumer and you need services, they can fill a need.”

SCL Health has microhospitals in Westminster at 6500 W 104th Avenue and in Littleton at 8515 W Coal Mine Ave. The Northglenn and Aurora facilities are scheduled to open this fall.

How does the cost differ from full-sized hospitals?

It doesn't. Microhospitals may be smaller than their full-service counterparts, but their services cost exactly the same.

Remember free-standing ERs? These are not those.

Free-standing ERs require redirection to a full-service hospital for anything beyond emergency management. Newsome said SCL Health’s hospitals are fully equipped for imaging, pediatrics, primary care and surgery. 

According to financial analyst Karyn Saulsburry, microhospitals should are not and should not be “all things to all people” and most of these hospitals differ in their offerings. In an article offering industry advice to those hospitals thinking of expanding, she determined the set of core features to be emergency services, imaging, lab and pharmaceutical services. Anything beyond that is a bonus. And any inpatient stays beyond 48 hours should be redirected to larger hospitals.

Multimedia business & healthcare reporter Chloe Aiello can be reached via email at [email protected] or

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