Limited access to pharmacies in rural Oregon linked to hospital readmission

Hospital readmission rates among patients in rural areas with limited access to pharmacies are higher than their urban counterparts, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association.

For the study, researchers analyzed census data on patients over 65 who were treated at 58 hospitals across the state and obtained medications from more than 500 pharmacies. Researchers found readmission rates among patients living in rural areas to be 15.3 percent compared to 14.7 percent for Oregonians living in closer proximity to pharmacies.

The study revealed that some patients in rural Oregon may have to commute 100 miles or more to find a pharmacy. Also, outpatient pharmacy hours were significantly fewer in rural areas. One rural community was found to rely on a single pharmacy open a total of 54 hours a week. In some urban centers patients have access to multiple pharmacies collectively open more than 3,800 hours a week.

"The modern pharmaceutical profession is increasingly being recognized as an important partner in healthcare," said David Lee, PharmD, an assistant professor at the Oregon State University College of Pharmacy in Corvallis. "This research shows that pharmacy access can help people from going back to the hospital. For older populations who often find hospital experiences quite exhausting, that's extremely important to their overall health."

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