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U.S. Emergency Care Access Varies Widely

Delayed access to emergency department in rural areas could result in poorer medical outcomes, study warns

WEDNESDAY, March 25 (HealthDay News) -- While most people in the United States can get to an emergency department within a half-hour, there are geographic inequities that could impact medical outcomes in time-critical medical emergencies, such as heart attack, stroke or major trauma, according to a report in the Feb. 9 online edition of the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

Brendan G. Carr, M.D., of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and colleagues assembled data from the National Emergency Department Inventories-USA that includes the location, annual number of visits, and teaching status of all U.S. emergency departments. Population data were obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Postal Service, and driving distances, speeds and times were calculated using validated mathematical models.

The investigators found that 71 percent of the U.S. population can reach an emergency department within 30 minutes, and 98 percent within 60 minutes. Regionally, access within 30 minutes was best in the Northeast (76.3 percent) and worst in the South (68.1 percent). Specifically, the District of Columbia had the best access (86.4 percent) and Vermont had the worst (48.3 percent), the report indicates.

"The disparity in emergency care access that we describe may be associated with poor outcomes for time-critical diseases. Our data support efforts to advance testable pilot solutions to increase population access to emergency services for rural Americans," the authors write.

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