"With prompt medical attention, a person's blockage to the heart, which causes a heart attack, can often be dissolved. That reduces damage to the heart and greatly lowers morbidity and mortality," says Liam O'Neill, assistant professor of policy analysis and management in the College of Human Ecology at Cornell.
O'Neill adds: "But as hospitals close and services and staff are reduced, the time that heart attack victims must travel to get to a hospital may be increasing, especially in rural areas. This puts patients at a much greater risk in the event of a cardiac or other emergency."
Since most information on heart attacks, or myocardial infarction (MI), only tracks patients in hospitals, O'Neill sought to review the outcome of heart attack victims who do not get to a hospital promptly. Patients who live farther from medical facilities have been under-sampled, he says, because data on their MIs and deaths are usually unavailable, underreported or incomplete.
O'Neill developed an estimation model of out-of-hospital heart attack deaths using a database of 22,000 MI patients from 228 hospitals in Pennsylvania. His study is published in the journal Health Care Management Science (Vol 6, pp. 147-154, 2003).
"Our research shows that for people who experience heart attacks, distance from a hospital has a very significant impact on their access to medical facilities and their eventual outcome," says O'Neill, who specializes in the strategic and operational use of quantitative methods and information systems in health care.
Contact: Susan S. Lang
Cornell University News Service