South Med J. 2023 May;116(5):410-414. doi: 10.14423/SMJ.0000000000001554.
OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to describe the local communities served by major teaching hospitals.
METHODS: Using a dataset of hospitals around the United States provided by the Association of American Medical Colleges, we identified major teaching hospitals (MTHs) using the Association of American Medical Colleges' definition of those with an intern-to-resident bed ratio above 0.25 and more than 100 beds. We defined the local geographic market surrounding these hospitals as the Dartmouth Atlas hospital service area (HSA). Using MATLAB R2020b software, data from each ZIP Code Tabulation Area from the US Census Bureau's 2019 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimate Data tables were grouped by HSA and attributed to each MTH. One-sample t tests were used to evaluate for statistical differences between the HSAs and the US average data. We further stratified the data into regions as defined by the US Census Bureau: West, Midwest, Northeast, and South. One-sample t tests were used to evaluate for statistical differences between MTH HSA regional populations with their respective US regional population.
RESULTS: The local population surrounding 299 unique MTHs covered 180 HSAs and was 57% White, 51% female, 14% older than 65 years old, 37% with public insurance coverage, 12% with any disability, and 40% with at least a bachelor's degree. Compared with the overall US population, HSAs surrounding MTHs had higher percentages of female residents, Black/African American residents, and residents enrolled in Medicare. In contrast, these communities also showed higher average household and per capita income, higher percentages of bachelor's degree attainment, and lower rates of any disability or Medicaid insurance.
CONCLUSIONS: Our analysis suggests that the local population surrounding MTHs is representative of the wide-ranging ethnic and economic diversity of the US population that is advantaged in some ways and disadvantaged in others. MTHs continue to play an important role in caring for a diverse population. To support and improve policy related to the reimbursement of uncompensated care and care of underserved populations, researchers and policy makers must work to better delineate and make transparent local hospital markets.