Objectives: To describe discharge rates, geographic and patient characteristics, treatment patterns, costs, and outcomes of patients hospitalized with community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) in Pennsylvania hospitals and compare these patients from rural and urban counties.
Design: A retrospective database study.
Patients: Adult patients (age > or = 18) with an ICD-9-CM diagnosis of pneumonia discharged from 193 Pennsylvania hospitals (n = 36,222) in 1991 from the MediQual Systems Pennsylvania database.
Measurements: Patient characteristics included a pneumonia-specific severity index, microbiologic etiology, and a number of comorbid conditions. Treatment indicators included the specialty of the admitting physician, length of stay, admittance to an intensive care unit, and mechanical ventilation. Cost indicators included charges and estimated costs. Outcomes measured were inpatient mortality and discharge disposition. Counties in Pennsylvania were classified into seven urban or rural groups, and patients were classified by the county of residence.
Results: The discharge rate for CAP was 4.0 per 1,000 and did not vary systematically across urban or rural counties. Most patients were treated in local hospitals. The average distance between residence and hospital was 5.4 miles and varied with urban or rural classification (range 2.5-9.3 miles). Among CAP patients, 37.8% were at low risk of mortality, with no systematic differences across rural or urban patients with respect to pneumonia severity. Rural patients were more likely to be treated by a family physician and somewhat less likely to be admitted to an intensive care unit or to be mechanically ventilated. Costs of treating rural patients were lower. In-hospital mortality rates, with controls for admission severity, were comparable or better for rural patients than for urban patients.
Conclusions: Patients with CAP are treated in hospitals located in counties similar to ones in which they reside. The cost of treatment was lower for rural patients than for urban patients, but outcomes were not different.