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Consumers drive past rural TN hospitals for care

The Chattanoogan, September 11, 2012

Community hospitals in Tennessee are being bypassed frequently by those who live closest to them, as many residents instead seek care at larger facilities in more populated areas, a study by the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Health Institute found. "In simple terms, almost half of the people in rural areas are not using the hospital closest to them, preferring to go to a larger, non-rural hospital to get care, even if the same services are available locally," states the issue brief, entitled Patterns of Care in Tennessee: Use of rural vs. non-rural facilities. The BCBST Health Institute, formed in 2011, has released previous studies showing that the state faces a potential healthcare capacity crisis in the near future, so a logical next step was to examine actual patterns of care, according to Dr. Steven Coulter, president of the Institute.