Study raises concerns about safety at critical-access hospitals
There are many advantages to living in rural Texas: the natural beauty of the land, the friendliness of the people, and the relative quiet of the surroundings. However, with that isolation can come drawbacks, too: among them, access to first-rate health care.
In order to help keep some smaller rural hospitals in business, federal exemptions are in place to enable them to receive higher Medicare payments and exempt them from some public reporting of patient recovery rates. However, a recent study shows that death rates at these hospitals are higher than at other hospitals, raising questions of potential medical errors or medical malpractice.
There are dozens of hospitals like this throughout Texas. According to the study, mortality rates at these facilities, which are known as critical-access hospitals, have been going up steadily while the rates have been falling at other hospitals. On average, the rate has been rising by 0.1 percent annually while it decreases by about 0.2 percent annually at other hospitals.
Over time, this amounts to a big divergence. A decade ago, mortality rates were largely the same in both groups of hospitals. Now, however, the rate is about 2 percent higher at critical-access hospitals than at other facilities.
In addition, these critical-access hospitals were found to be less likely to use electronic health records, an important tool in making sure patient care is up to date. Additionally, many of these hospitals lack intensive care units and specialists who are equipped to deal with the needs of rural patients -- many of whom are elderly.
Source: The Lincoln Journal Star, "Death rates rise at geographically isolated hospitals, study finds," Jordan Rau, April 7, 2013