Poorer hospital care in disappearing rural America

Rural American populations are at an all-time low, making up only 16 percent of the national population, reports the Associated Press (AP) today.

In addition, they face a greater lack of access to care, according to a UnitedHealth Center for Health & Reform Modernization report released Wednesday, reports Reuters. For the hospitals that do exist in rural areas, studies show that they experience poorer outcomes. Rural Americans already face greater rates of diabetes, heart problems, and cancer.

Another recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found similar results in that rural hospitals have poorer outcomes, with patients having a 30 to 70 percent higher risk of dying from heart attack, congestive heart failure, or pneumonia.

One possible solution to the improving access and quality of care may be telemedicine. Telemedicine is "the most efficient and cost-savings way to actually provide healthcare to many rural areas of the United States," Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.) told Reuters.

Fewer rural patient populations and poor quality scores could affect hospitals' bottom lines.

In related news, Sens. Tim Johnson (R-Ill.) and John Thune (R-Okla.) sponsored legislation to extend a federal program that allows rural hospitals to apply for mortgage insurance from the Federal Housing Administration. The program, which enables rural hospitals to finance construction costs and provide services, will expire Sunday, according to The Daily Republic.

For more information:
- read the AP article
- here's the Reuters's article
- read the UnitedHealth report (.pdf)
- read The Daily Republic article

Related Articles:
Answering the call on executive pay for rural hospitals
ONC aims funding to boost EHR use by critical access, rural hospitals