Study | Rural hospital closures strain community ambulance services

Research Brief From the University of Michigan on May 25

Rural hospital closures force patients in affected communities to travel longer distances for specialized or emergency care. A new study from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health shows that such closures place similar strain on emergency medical service (EMS) providers trying to get patients to the hospital or another facility as quickly as possible.

The study was led by Associate Professor Sayeh Nikpay and recently published in the journal Academic Emergency Medicine.

The study found:

  • The average length of ambulance trips for municipal EMS agencies went up 22% in locations of recent rural hospital closures.

  • The average length of ambulance trips for private EMS agencies increased 10% in those areas.

  • Interfacility transfers and non-emergency EMS trips fell by 31% for all agencies.

  • The total number of trips did not change, likely because many agencies are already operating at full capacity and must prioritize emergency calls over transfers and non-emergency transportation after hospitals close.

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Michigan, rural