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Rural Medicare Patients Less Likely To Receive Follow-Up Care

Posted on Tuesday, August 18, 2015 4:15 PM

According to a new study published in Medical Care, rural Medicare patients have lower rates of follow-up care after discharge. Follow-up care is an important safeguard against preventable readmissions. Researchers analyzed data from the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey, which covers about 12,000 Medicare patients admitted to hospitals between 2000 and 2010, about a third of whom live in rural communities. Researchers then divided the rural patients into those living in large, small and isolated areas. Comparing rural and urban patients based on follow-up visits, emergency room visits and unplanned readmissions in the first 30 days after discharge for rural patients was 19 percent less  than their urban counterparts. Researchers also found a 44 percent higher risk of ED visits for patients in small rural areas and a 52 percent higher risk for those in large ones. Risk of readmission was not significantly higher for those living in rural areas than those in urban areas, but when researchers looked at the numbers by hospital location rather than residency, those in large and small rural areas were 32 percent and 42 percent more likely to be readmitted, respectively. These findings support existing research that Medicare's Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program disproportionately penalizes rural providers. Healthcare leaders must now look into what drives these disparities. Click here to read more.

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