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Could location determine the quality of care your loved one receives in a nursing home? According to a recent study conducted by the University of Missouri and published in the Journal of Rural Health, that notion could very well be the case. Specifically, researchers found that rural homes lag behind in information technology, which in turn impacts the type, safety and efficiency of care received.

When applied to healthcare settings, up-to-date information technology is said to improve overall outcomes, including fewer hospitalizations. Without these advancements, rural nursing homes have fewer capabilities to exchange patient information with hospitals, which then impacts quality during transitions in care.

Better IT ultimately results in more laboratory capabilities for registration and admissions, including conducting and verifying medical tests. Without a modern infrastructure within the facility, the home may also find it difficult to attract top talent for its staff.

While this study is the first of its kind since 2004, other research indicates a contrast between care in urban and rural facilities.

1. How Patients Rate Their Care

elderly hand on a cane According to a University of Illinois College of Medicine study published in JAMDA, patients are less likely to give a home in a rural setting a four- or five-star rating.

Using Nursing Home Compare data for 15,177 homes, researchers came across several findings:

  • For-profit homes in rural areas had very low ratings: As many as 18.7 percent received just one star. Government-run, nonprofit homes didn’t fare much better; 7.8 to 9.6 percent received this low of a rating.
  • For four- and five-star ratings, government and nonprofit homes appeared to offer better care, at 49.9 and 56.9 percent respectively, versus 37.4 percent for for-profit homes.
  • Smaller homes with under 100 beds tended to perform better, getting a higher rating 52.5 percent of the time, versus 33.6 percent for larger homes.

2. Who’s Using the Nursing Home

Based on data from the 2000 census, a smaller percentage of patients in metropolitan areas use a nursing home for care. Specifically, just eight percent of the population 75 years and older decided to stay in a nursing home. By contrast, 50 percent of individuals in this age bracket sought out this type of care in rural areas.

Older data supporting this finding shows that, when rural and urban nursing home patients are compared, those using the former facilities tend to be younger and less impaired.

Demographics between these regions also vary. A 2000 study titled “Nursing Homes in Rural and Urban Areas” found that populations in rural areas tend to have a higher percentage of elderly individuals, many of whom live by themselves in poverty or near poverty level.

3. Medicare or Medicaid

How seniors pay for their nursing home stay depends on where they’re receiving care. Urban facilities tend to see more patients using Medicare for long-term nursing home care. By contrast, more elderly individuals in rural areas, in homes or living on their own, have Medicaid for this purpose and are less likely to use Medicare. In seeking treatment, Medicaid is more likely to pay for elder care in a nursing home, thus making seniors covering a larger age spectrum dependent on a facility’s services.

4. Types of Nursing Homes

Other data reveals the types of homes available to patients. In a rural area, a patient is more likely to have a nonprofit or government home, such as a county-run nursing facility, as the only option. But, patients in rural areas are more likely to rate these facilities higher than their for-profit counterparts, which have a greater presence in urban areas.

Even when government run, a rural home tends to be smaller in size, with fewer beds available than what you’ll find in a metropolitan region. On paper, these facilities receive fewer citations during state assessments. On the other hand, due to the remoteness and lack of resources, they’re often understaffed with less-qualified individuals.

Where your loved one receives care can be a major factor in your decision to select a nursing home. After you’ve researched facilities and chosen the right one for your loved one, finding out negligence, medication errors or abuse occurred is shocking and extremely frightening. If you believe your loved one is experiencing nursing home abuse, Trantolo & Trantolo’s team of nursing home negligence lawyers can help you pursue a claim. To learn more, contact any of our locations today.