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AHRQ Report Finds Rural Health Care Still Subpar for Most Quality Measures

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For about 30 percent of quality measures, residents of rural areas—about 17 percent of Americans—receive lower-quality health care and have worse outcomes compared with residents of more populated areas, according to AHRQ’s Chartbook on Rural Health. The Chartbook is part of the 2014 AHRQ National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report, which tracks trends in effectiveness and timeliness of care, patient safety, patient-centeredness, disparities and efficiency of care. The Chartbook on Rural Health shows that 46 percent of health care quality measures improved over time in rural areas, but disparities remain. Through 2012, using the most recent data available, disparities were most common among measures such as wellness checkups for children and cancer screenings for adults. Measures improved slightly for suicide and postoperative sepsis. Compared with other Americans, residents of rural counties tend to be older, poorer and sicker, with chronic conditions that limit their activities. Furthermore, life expectancy in the United States decreases in areas that are most rural. Those living in large metropolitan areas had a life expectancy of 79.1 years, compared with 76.7 years for those in rural areas. For more information on rural health and policy-related research, visit the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy.

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