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The effect of rural hospital closures on emergency medical service response and transport times.

Miller KEM, James HJ, Holmes GM, Van Houtven CH. The effect of rural hospital closures on emergency medical service response and transport times. Health services research. 2020 Apr 1; 55(2):288-300.

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OBJECTIVE: To examine the effect of rural hospital closures on EMS response time (minutes between dispatch notifying unit and arriving at scene); transport time (minutes between unit leaving the scene and arriving at destination); and total activation time (minutes between 9-1-1 call to responding unit returning to service), as longer EMS times are associated with worse patient outcomes. DATA SOURCES/STUDY SETTING: We use secondary data from the National EMS Information System, Area Health Resource, and Center for Medicare and Medicaid Provider of Service files (2010-2016). STUDY DESIGN: We examined the effects of rural hospital closures on EMS transport times for emergent 9-1-1 calls in rural areas using a pre-post, retrospective cohort study with the matched comparison group using difference-in-difference and quantile regression models. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Closures increased mean EMS transport times by 2.6 minutes (P  =  .09) and total activation time by 7.2 minutes (P  =  .02), but had no effect on mean response times. We also found closures had heterogeneous effects across the distribution of EMS times, with shorter response times, longer transport times, and median total activation times experiencing larger effects. CONCLUSIONS: Rural hospital closures increased mean transport and total activation times with varying effects across the distribution of EMS response, transport, and total times. These findings illuminate potential barriers to accessing timely emergency services due to closures.

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