Rural health care is a notch below care in urban areas, but its costs are lower and its emergency rooms are faster, study finds

A national study has found a narrow gap between the quality of health care in rural and urban settings, but it does recognize the “significant differences” differences between urban and rural care.

The report is an update to “Rural Relevance Under Healthcare Reform: A Tracking Study,” by iVantage Health Analytics, and evaluates performance measures across physician, outpatient, hospital and emergency room settings. According to a press release, the report reveals that in Medicare could save about $7.2 billion if costs per patient were the same in rural and urban settings. The report also finds that for rural patients, physician payments are 18 percent lower and hospital payments are 2 percent lower than in urban areas, but outpatient payments are 14 percent higher. The overall cost per Medicare patient is 3.7 percent lower for rural patients.

Rural emergency care is faster overall than urban emergency room care, with rural patients seeing a doctor 30 percent faster (once the patient gets to the hospital, we should add). This results in fewer hospital admissions. The full report can be accessed here.

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