Many rural patients “bypass” rural hospitals and get admitted at urban facilities, a federal study shows. Rural from rural America who stay at rural hospitals tend to be older and on Medicare. They are also less likely to get medical procedures like surgeries.
About 40% of the rural population “bypasses” rural hospitals to get their inpatient treatment at urban facilities, a report from the National Center for Health Statistics shows.
Patients from rural America who were treated at rural hospitals tend to be older and on Medicare, the report says. And they tend to be patients who do not receive surgery or other procedures.
The patient load of rural hospitals is one factor in a growing crisis in rural healthcare, which has seen an increasing number of hospital closures.
The report said 6.1 million rural residents were hospitalized in 2010. About 3.7 million of these patients received their care in a rural hospital. The remaining 2.4 million rural hospital patients were admitted to urban institutions.
More than half of the rural patients admitted to rural hospitals were aged 65 and older. Only about third of rural patients who went to urban hospitals were aged 65 and up.
“Prior research has shown that patients in this age group were less likely to leave rural areas for their hospitalization due, in part, to the barriers imposed by traveling to urban areas, and to their preference for remaining closer to home,” the report said.
The study found major differences in the number of procedures that patients received. Only about a third of rural patients who stayed at rural hospitals received a surgical or nonsurgical procedure. About three-fourths of rural patients who went to urban hospitals received such procedures.
Rural residents who were admitted to in urban hospitals were three times as likely to have three or more procedures as rural residents who were admitted to a rural hospital.
The report said rural patients who needed tests and procedures may have been more likely to transfer to urban hospitals that have more equipment and specialists.
The study found no difference in the death rate (2%) of rural patients admitted to rural or urban.