How ED closures affect nearby hospitals

When emergency departments close and add driving time to the next-closest ED, mortality rates can increase if nearby hospitals are already near capacity, according to a study published in Health Affairs.

For the study, researchers from the University of California San Francisco and the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., analyzed data from 2001-13 on outcomes of heart attack patients who sought treatment at "bystander EDs," or ones near EDs that had recently closed or opened.

From 2001-13, 898 EDs closed nationwide. At the same time, 494 EDs opened. The researchers found when an ED closed near another already experiencing high occupancy rates, an increase in driving of at least 30 minutes led to higher mortality rates and readmission rates. Conversely, if ED openings led to decreased driving times, mortality rates fell.

"Overall, our findings suggest that high-occupancy hospitals are the most sensitive to nearby ED closures and would benefit from ED openings, while other hospitals may actually absorb extra demand for emergency care after ED closures without significant negative impact on patient outcomes or treatment," the researchers concluded.

Read more here.

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