Rural ERs at par with urban ERs when it comes to saving lives

Remote hospitals in the US are not faring well with over 100 rural hospitals closed down since 2010. This causes a direct unavailability of emergency services in that rural area.

Scientists have noted that despite the increasing risk of closure patients treated at rural emergency departments have similar outcomes to those receiving care at urban ERs for several important emergency conditions, including stroke and heart attack. Findings of the study have been published in JAMA Network Open wherein researchers have said that they found no significant difference in 30-day mortality for potentially life-threatening conditions in the two emergency health care settings.

The similarities in patient outcomes underscore the importance of rural and critical-access emergency departments for treating life-threatening conditions, especially as those facilities risk losing funding and resources.

Rural hospitals see significantly fewer patients than urban health care facilities. However, when researchers adjusted for the difference, Medicare patients seeking care at rural ERs had a likelihood of 3.9% mortality, compared to 4.1% in urban ERs. Visits to rural emergency departments were also associated with significantly more transfers – 6.2% versus 2% – than their urban counterparts.

For conditions more related to symptoms that do not result in a specific diagnosis, overall mortality at rural locations was higher than the urban systems. While unmeasured clinical or contextual factors may contribute to worse outcomes for symptom-based cases, the research team says more study and localized analyses are required.

Last year, nearly 20 rural hospitals closed or stopped providing inpatient care. As this trend continues, millions of Americans risk losing valuable health care access within their home communities – care that this study has shown to be valuable and lifesaving researchers say.

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