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Rural US Hospitals Lacking in Pneumonia, Heart Care

A new research study has found that critical access hospitals (CAHs) located in remote rural areas lack adequate facilities to provide quality care for pneumonia and heart problems. CAHs survive on Medicare dole and this concept was created in 1997 to stop the rising tide of hospital closures in rural USA.

The study found that Americans treated at CAHs for pneumonia and heart problems in 2008-2009 had poorer rates of survival compared to patients at other US hospitals. There about 1,300 CAHs in rural America.

The CAHs are not monitored for quality of care as they are not part of national reporting programs. In the study, researchers analyzed treatments at more than 1,200 CAHs and compared them with treatments at more than 3,400 other US hospitals. They found CAHs scored lower in providing care to victims of pneumonia, heart failure and heart attacks.

At CAHs, 23.5% of heart attack sufferers died inside 30 days, compared to 16% at other hospitals. Similarly 13% of CAH heart failure patients died inside 30 days compared to 11% at other hospitals. For pneumonia, the date rate at CAHs was 14% versus 12% in other places.

However, the researchers say this study should not demonize CAHs which are doing a great job providing medical care to elderly rural patients close to their home. They suggest that rural hospitals should improve their quality by making use of modern technologies like video conferencing to consult with physicians at large medical centers.

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