Any comparisons of urban and rural healthcare costs come freighted with caveats.
For starters, rural hospitals usually cannot provide the array of specialized and expensive care seen in larger urban hospitals, making per-patient cost comparisons difficult. There can also be stark differences in patient populations. And rural hospitals do not enjoy the economy of scale and leverage with vendors and insurance companies that are seen in larger urban hospitals. Critical access hospitals get higher reimbursements from the federal government for care delivery, further muddying comparisons.
Still, there is a nagging perception out there that the 1,700 or so management teams at rural hospitals across the nation don't provide the same level of care delivery value as urban hospitals.
A study by Portland, ME-based consultants iVantage Health Analytics challenges that perception.
"We just keep seeing the data repeat the fact that on the measures the industry is looking at--safety, process, outcomes, satisfaction, the big value measures--we don't see gigantic differentiation between urbans and rurals," says iVantage Executive Vice President John R. Morrow.