Outcomes comparison in patients admitted to low complexity rural and urban intensive care units in the Veterans Health Administration

Amy M.J. O'Shea, Spyridon Fortis, Mary Vaughan Sarrazin, Jane Moeckli, William C Yarbrough, Heather Schacht Reisinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Purpose: To evaluate mortality, length of stay, and inter-hospital transfer in the Veteran Health Administration (VHA) among low complexity Intensive Care Unit (ICU) patients. Materials and method: Retrospective study of adult ICU admissions identified in VHA Medical SAS®; 2010–2015 at Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Centers. Facilities classified by the Rural Urban Commuting Area code algorithm as large rural (referred to as rural) (N = 6) or urban (N = 33). Results: In rural hospitals, patients (N = 9665) were less likely to have a respiratory (12.9% v. 18.9%; p <.001) diagnosis, more likely diagnosed with sepsis (17.6% v. 4.9%), and had a higher illness severity score (42.0 vs. 41.4; p =.01) compared to urban (N = 65,846) counterparts. Mortality within ICU did not vary across facility rurality. In unadjusted analyses, facility rurality (rural vs. urban) was associated with reduced inter-hospital transfers (OR = 0.74; 95% CI = [0.69, 0.80]; p <.001) and a shorter ICU length of stay (RR = 0.82; 95% CI = [0.74, 0.91]; p <.001). This did not hold when the hierarchical data was accounted for. Conclusions: Despite challenges, low complexity ICUs in rural VA facilities fare similarly to urban counterparts. Being part of a national healthcare system may have benefits to explore in sustaining critical care access in rural areas outside the VA healthcare system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)64-69
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Critical Care
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2019



  • Critical care
  • Hospitals
  • Inpatients
  • Length of stay
  • Retrospective studies
  • Rural
  • Veterans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine

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