A study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds that the wrongful death rate among rural hospitals increased during the past decade while death rates at urban hospitals have fallen.
So-called "critical access hospitals" are medical facilities that provide inpatient care to Californians living in rural communities. Researchers say that these geographically isolated hospitals have fallen behind in providing quality patient care, which may be causing an increase in mortality rates.
Medical researchers say that in 2002, hospital deaths linked to heart attack, heart failure and pneumonia were about the same in critical access hospitals and regular hospitals. The rate of these deaths has declined by 0.2 percent per year for regular hospitals, reaching 11.4 percent by 2010, while rising slightly every year for rural hospitals, reaching 13.3 percent in 2010.
"As we have more advanced treatments, it's harder for rural hospitals to keep up," researchers said. "It's hard to provide care for really, really sick patients in a resource-limited setting."
Harvard researchers have previously described the link between rural hospitals and increased mortality rates among patients. Some doctors say that mortality rates are only a small part of patient care measures, however, and note that there is no substantial difference in readmissions between urban and rural hospitals.
Source: The Lincoln Journal Star, "Death rates rise at geographically isolated hospitals, study finds," Jordan Rau, April 7, 2013