Medicare patients admitted to critical access hospitals for common surgical procedures are no more likely to die within 30 days than similar patients at other hospitals and have lower complication rates and expenditures, according to a study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study compared Medicare admissions for four common surgical procedures: appendectomy, gall bladder removal, removal of all or part of the colon, and hernia repair. Patients undergoing surgery at CAHs were less likely to have chronic medical problems and serious complications (6% vs 14%). After adjusting for patient differences, the 30-day mortality rate for CAHs and non-CAHs was not significantly different (5.4% vs 5.6%). Medicare expenditures adjusted for patient factors and procedure type were lower at CAHs than non-CAHs ($14,450 vs $15,845). The findings “contrast previously published literature about nonsurgical admissions in these same settings and inform legislators about the valuable role critical access hospitals provide in the U.S. health care system,” the authors said.

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Often quietly and out of the public eye, the vital work of advancing health in America happens on many fronts.