Apr 9, 2024 - Health

Rural COVID patients likelier to die after hospitalization

Illustration of a road map in the shape of a red cross

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A new Mayo Clinic study finds rural COVID-19 patients were 22% likelier to die after a hospital stay than their urban counterparts and that disparities persisted despite the rollout of coronavirus vaccines.

Why it matters: The findings underscore how the U.S. rural population is one of the most medically vulnerable groups, often having limited access to high-quality post-acute, primary, and specialty care, researchers wrote.

The big picture: The study in Open Forum Infectious Diseases looked at more than 9,300 patients hospitalized in Arizona, Florida, Minnesota and Wisconsin between March 2020 and July 2022 who were followed until May 2023.

  • Living in a rural area was linked to one additional death for every 25 patients hospitalized for COVID-19 within a median follow-up period of 602 days.
  • Rural patients were older and had higher rates of obesity, heart failure, COPD, depression, and substance use, which have been previously associated with poorer outcomes.
  • They also were likelier to be white, living alone and current smokers compared with those from urban counties.

There was a a 1.22-fold increase in mortality among rural patients compared with those from urban counties. The rural patients were also more likely to be treated with COVID-19-specific or repurposed drugs, including remdesivir and dexamethasone.

  • Even after the introduction of COVID-19 vaccines, rural patients experienced higher mortality and tended to be readmitted more frequently following hospitalization due to their age and other health issues.
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