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What is outmigration?

Outmigration occurs when a patient who lives in one service area seeks healthcare services outside that area. Several factors can contribute to patient outmigration. These may include perceived limitations in the quality of local healthcare services, a desire for specialized treatments or procedures not available locally, preferences for specific healthcare providers or institutions, or even considerations related to cost and insurance coverage.

For local healthcare systems, outmigration may lead to a loss of revenue and can highlight areas where the local healthcare infrastructure may need improvement or expansion to meet the needs and expectations of the community. Rural hospitals are at an increased risk of patient outmigration to urban hospitals, often because of the more extensive services offered at urban hospitals. Rural hospitals that effectively manage outmigration can enhance their financial stability, preserving their vital role in their communities and mitigating the risk of closure.

How can healthcare improve by addressing outmigration?

Understanding the reasons behind outmigration can allow a hospital or clinic to pinpoint service areas that need attention. Not only will addressing these areas promote better patient outcomes, but it will also increase patient retention. Efforts to address patient outmigration often involve understanding physician referral patterns, enhancing local healthcare services, expanding specialty care offerings, and improving the overall quality and accessibility of healthcare within a given region. By doing so, healthcare providers can retain patients and meet their healthcare needs locally, minimizing the need for outmigration.