Most public hospitals are in rural areas

Research Activities, November 2010, No. 363

Two-thirds of the nation's 1,131 public hospitals were in rural areas in 2008, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). However, these rural hospitals—which on average have only 59 beds—accounted for just 20 percent of the 5.6 million patients discharged from public hospitals in 2008, while their larger urban counterparts accounted for 43 percent. Urban hospitals were nearly 5 times larger, averaging 285 beds.

The Agency also found that:

  • The average occupancy rate of rural public hospitals was just 47 percent compared with 61 percent for urban public hospitals.
  • Patients in rural hospitals were older (42 percent were 65 plus) than those in urban public hospitals (23 percent were 65 plus).
  • Rural public hospital patients were twice as likely to be from the poorest communities in their areas than those in urban public hospitals (52 percent vs. 26 percent).
  • Rural public hospitals had fewer high-technology services than urban public hospitals. For example, rural hospitals were less likely to have intensive care units, magnetic resonance imaging, cardiac surgery, and advanced types of radiation therapy.

This AHRQ News and Numbers is based on data in Public Hospitals in the United States, 2008 (http://www.hcup-us.ahrq.gov/reports/statbriefs/sb95.jsp) from the 2008 Nationwide Inpatient Sample, a database of hospital inpatient stays in all short-term, non-Federal hospitals. The data are drawn from hospitals that comprise 90 percent of all discharges in the United States and include patients, regardless of insurance type, as well as the uninsured.

For more information, contact Bob.Isquith@ahrq.hhs.gov (301) 427-1539.

Current as of November 2010
Internet Citation: Most public hospitals are in rural areas: Research Activities, November 2010, No. 363. November 2010. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://archive.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/nov10/1110RA29.html