Rural hospitals equal in outcomes, ahead in ED care

Rural hospitals are equal to their urban counterparts in care quality, patient safety and outcomes, and their emergency departments (ED) are more efficient and less expensive, according to a new study by iVantage Health Analytics.

"Acknowledging that not all care is equal, and that complex care cases are appropriately referred to tertiary care centers, the findings of the 2014 Rural Relevance Study challenges the notion that rural hospitals are: more costly, more inefficient and maintain lower quality and satisfaction," the study states. "Importantly, as the industry seeks to address the new healthcare through innovative delivery models, the achievements of rural healthcare must be recognized as a key component for integration into broader strategies for patient-centered care under the Affordable Care Act."

The analysis found that:

  • Rural hospitals charge 63 percent less on average than urban hospitals

  • Outcomes, care quality, patient safety and patient satisfaction are equal between rural and urban hospitals

  • Rural EDs are cheaper and more efficient than urban EDs, with inpatient admissions less than half the national rate

  • Patients spend an average of 56 fewer minutes in rural EDs than urban EDs and

  • Hospitals could save $6.8 billion by adopting rural hospitals' spending-per-beneficiary levels

"Rural healthcare providers provide an important safety net to communities across the country, serving 80 million of the U.S. population. The Study findings challenge the assumption that rural hospitals are more costly, inefficient, and have lower levels of quality and patient satisfaction," said iVantage Executive Vice President John Morrow in a statement.

The study results demonstrate "the nation's rural hospitals and clinics perform at high levels of quality while doing so at lower cost," Alan Morgan, chief executive officer of the National Rural Health Association, said in the statement.

The survey results come amid what experts describe as a crisis in rural healthcare, due to a combination of states' refusal to expand Medicaid and the Department of Health & Human Services' attempts to recertify critical access hospitals, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's the study (.pdf) (signup required)
- read the statement

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