Older rural residents are more likely to seek care at rural hospitals, national study finds

Rural hospitals are more likely to serve older patients seeking hospitalization, while younger rural residents seek medical care in urban areas, says a study by the National Center for Health Statistics at the federal Centers for Disease Control.

“Rural hospitals primarily serve an aging,
poorer population admitted for low-acuity care of chronic diseases, and
so they likely want to remain close to their homes and their personal
physicians,” John Commins reports for HealthLeaders Media. “The younger rural hospital patients, who are more likely to have
greater mobility and access to commercial health insurance, likely seek
care in urban settings because rural hospitals often don’t have the
funding or patient populations to support specialists or a particular
area of specialty care, such as cardiac or oncology.”

The study found that 60 percent of the 6.1 million rural residents who were hospitalized in 2010 sought care in rural hospitals, while 40 percent went to urban ones. For patients over 65 years old, 51 percent were hospitalized in rural areas, with 53 percent using Medicaid as their principal source of payment, compared to 37 percent of patients over 65 going to urban hospitals, with 44 percent relying on Medicaid. Rural residents ages 45-64 made up 24 percent of those hospitalized in rural areas and 32 percent in urban areas. The study found no significant difference among patients under 45. (The disparity of where difference age groups seek hospitalization)

Rural residents hospitalized in an urban hospital were three times more likely to have three or more procedures than patients in rural hospitals, the study found. Only 38 percent of patients in rural hospitals received a non-surgical procedure, compared to 74 percent of rural patients at urban hospitals.

Rural residents at rural hospitals were less likely to be discharged home, with 63 percent of rural patients sent home from rural hospitals, compared to 81 percent at urban ones, the study found. Rural hospitals were more likely to discharge patients to another facility, with 14 percent of rural residents at rural hospitals discharged to a long-term care institution, compared to 8 percent at urban ones, and 7 percent of rural hospitals discharged patients to a short-stay hospital, compared to 3 percent of urban ones. (Read more)

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