Rural hospital closures increase mortality rates, study finds

Rural hospital closures increase patient mortality by 5.9 percent, whereas urban closures have no measurable impact on patient outcomes, according to a study published in August by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Researchers studied California's hospital closures from 1995 to 2011 using California's Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development data. They compared admissions outcomes in hospital service areas with and without closures as well as the impact of closures in urban and rural areas. 

When the researchers did not differentiate between rural and urban closures, they found no measurable impact on patient outcomes. However, comparing the impacts on rural vs. urban areas showed rural closures increased inpatient mortality by 0.46 percentage points, an increase of 5.9 percent, while urban closures had no impact. 

The results varied across different diagnoses. Rural hospital closures increased mortality for stroke patients by 3.1 percent and for acute myocardial infarction patients by 4.5 percent.  

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