Decline in Inpatient Volume at Rural Hospitals

Link to article at PubMed

J Rural Health. 2020 Dec 31. doi: 10.1111/jrh.12553. Online ahead of print.

ABSTRACT

PURPOSE: To investigate (1) all-payer inpatient volume changes at rural hospitals and (2) whether trends in inpatient volume differ by organizational and geographic characteristics of the hospital and characteristics of the patient population.

METHODS: We used a retrospective, longitudinal study design. Our study sample consisted of rural hospitals between 2011 and 2017. Inpatient volume was measured as inpatient average daily census (ADC). Additional measured hospital characteristics included census region, Medicare payment type, ownership type, number of beds, local competition, total margin, and whether the hospital was located in a Medicaid expansion state. Measured characteristics of the local patient population included total population size, percent of population aged 65 years or older, and percent of population in poverty. To identify predictors of inpatient volume trends, we fit a linear multiple regression model using generalized estimating equations.

FINDINGS: Rural hospitals experienced an average change in ADC of -13% between 2011 and 2017. We found that hospital characteristics (eg, census region, Medicare payment type, ownership type, total margin, whether the hospital was located in a Medicaid expansion state) and patient population characteristics (eg, percent of population in poverty) were significant predictors of inpatient volume trends.

CONCLUSIONS: Trends in inpatient volume differ by organizational and geographic characteristics of the hospital and characteristics of the patient population. Researchers and policy makers should continue to explore the causal mechanisms of inpatient volume decline and its role in the financial viability of rural hospitals.

PMID:33382499 | DOI:10.1111/jrh.12553

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