Am J Cardiol. 2022 May 13:S0002-9149(22)00419-2. doi: 10.1016/j.amjcard.2022.04.014. Online ahead of print.
Substantial gaps in clinical outcomes exist in rural and urban hospitals in the United States. We used the National Inpatient Sample to examine trends in hospitalizations, in-hospital mortality, length of stay, and inflation-adjusted cost of adults admitted for heart failure (HF) and acute myocardial infarction (AMI) in rural and urban hospitals between 2004 and 2018. From 2004 to 2013 and 2014, there was an initial decrease in age-adjusted HF hospitalizations in both urban (annual percent change [APC] -3.9 [95% confidence interval [CI] -4.3 to -3.5] p <0.001) and rural hospitals (APC -5.9 [95% CI -6.4 to -5.3] p <0.001), after which hospitalizations for HF increased in urban areas (APC 4.2 [95% CI 3.2 to 5.3] p <0.001) and remained stable in rural areas (APC 0.2 [95% CI -2.1 to 2.6] p = 0.863). Urban AMI hospitalizations decreased between 2004 and 2010 (APC -4.4 [95% CI -5.3 to -3.3] p <0.001) and subsequently remained stable (APC 0.2 [95% CI -0.5 to 0.9] p = 0.552), whereas rural AMI hospitalizations had a consistent decrease throughout the study period (APC -4.2 [95% CI -5.0 to -3.4] p <0.001). Overall, urban hospitals had lower in-hospital mortality for HF and AMI than rural hospitals (3.1% vs 3.5%, p <0.001% and 5.4% vs 6.5%, p <0.001), respectively. Initially, in-hospital mortality was higher in rural hospitals; however, the rural-urban hospital mortality gap decreased during the study period for both HF and AMI. Rural hospitals had a shorter mean length of stay for HF and AMI (4.4 vs 5.5 days, p <0.001 and 3.9 vs 4.7 days, p <0.001) and lower inflation-adjusted costs for both HF and AMI ($8,897.1 vs $13,420.8, p <0.001 and $15,301.6 vs $22,943.7, p <0.001) when compared with urban hospitals. In conclusion, a consistent decrease in the in-hospital mortality gap in rural and urban hospitals for HF and AMI suggests improvement in inpatient rural cardiovascular care during the study period. Continued healthcare policy reforms are warranted to alleviate the disparities in rural-urban cardiovascular outcomes.