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Nearly one in four Americans must travel farther than was necessary a decade ago to get to the nearest trauma centre, new research suggests.Hundreds of trauma centres have closed since 1990 because of financial problems, and patients are suffering, according to a study published Wednesday in Health Affairs.
In 2007, 69 million people had to travel farther than they did in 2001 to reach a trauma centre—and for nearly 16 million of them, the added distance tacked on at least 30 minutes to travel time.
High-poverty urban and rural areas were more likely to be affected than affluent areas, the Cleveland Plain-Dealer reports. The longer trip is worrisome because one hour can mean the difference between life and death for those with severe injuries.
“Trauma centres aren’t just for ‘certain’ people—if you sustain a serious injury from a car accident or fall off your roof, you need a trauma centre,” said study author Renee Y. Hsia, an emergency room doctor at San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma centre, in a news release. “We found evidence that vulnerable communities have less geographic access to trauma care, adding to their health disparities.”
• Best Hospitals
• The Hospital, Your Care Coordinator
How to Find the Best Hospital Near You
Some Americans are fortunate enough to live down the street from a world-class hospital. For them, where to go for highly skilled care is clear.
For most of us, though, finding a hospital that offers both top-notch care and local convenience has long been a challenge. Healthcare consumers have limited information about how the hospitals near them stack up. Ironically, their choice can be toughest where options are most plentiful—large metropolitan areas crowded with hospitals that offer varying degrees of expertise across a range of medical specialties.
In principle, going to a renowned medical centre such as one of the nationally ranked U.S. News Best Hospitals is a solid option. But that could be difficult if it requires travel, expensive if not covered by health insurance, and unnecessary except in the most challenging medical cases. No wonder most hospital patients stay close to home.
To take a bite out of their guesswork, U.S. News tapped its latest annual evaluation of the nation’s nearly 5,000 hospitals and ranked the best ones in 94 U.S. metropolitan areas with 500,000 or more residents.
Marking a major geographical expansion, this year’s hospital rankings cover nearly twice as many cities as U.S. News covered in the past.
• Best Hospitals by Metro Area
• The Methodology for Hospital Rankings in 94 Metro Areas
When a Hospital Is Bad for You
The U.S. News Best Hospitals rankings and other resources can help steer you to a top-notch hospital when a procedure or condition requires exceptional skill. For routine care, such as repairing a torn rotator cuff or inserting a heart stent, most hospitals will do a fine job. Still, “most” is not “all.” Sometimes a particular hospital can be the right choice for some patients but the wrong one for you, U.S. News reported in 2010.
There aren’t many hospitals so terrible that they’re lethal. A 50 per cent death rate or other glaring red flag would prompt padlocks on the doors. But you don’t want a place that has little experience with your surgical or medical needs—or is less alert than it should be for anything that could go wrong. Rates of postsurgical complications such as bleeding, infection, and sudden kidney failure vary surprisingly little, according to a recent study of nearly 200 hospitals across the country.
What does differ are deaths from such complications, says John Birkmeyer, a professor of surgery at the University of Michigan Medical School and the study’s coauthor. Mortality rates at some hospitals in the study were almost twice as high as at others. A good hospital, says Birkmeyer, catches problems and responds quickly.
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