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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UNC: Rural Patients Who Receive Medical Care Far from Home Less Likely to go to Nursing Facilities Near Where They Live

Many patients who live in rural areas travel to urban hospitals for acute care. A recent study has found that many of these rural patients subsequently obtain post-acute care from skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) and hospitals that are not near their homes – and the further away the hospital, the less likely patients are to return to their home community for SNF care.

Ms. Abby Hoffman, a doctoral student in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health, is lead author of the article “What Characteristics Influence Whether Rural Beneficiaries Receiving Care From Urban Hospitals Return Home for Skilled Nursing Care?”, published recently in the Journal of Rural Health.

Dr. Mark Holmes, and Dr. George Pink, both professors in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Gillings School and senior research fellows at the UNC Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, are co-authors on the paper.

The study grew out of a project from the Sheps Center’s NC Rural Health Research Program, which was commissioned by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy to conduct research on rural post-acute care, including skilled nursing care. The project found that rural residents who went to an urban hospital only received rural post-acute care about half the time.

“Usually patients prefer to receive health care near home. That way, they avoid travel, their friends and relatives can visit, and their lives may be less disrupted overall,” said Ms. Hoffman. “We wanted to understand why rural residents in urban hospitals often received post-acute care away from home. Was it something about the hospitals, the health care market or the patients themselves?”

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