Hospitals in the United States, 2020 by Northeastern University

The spread of COVID-19 has shed light on the issue of alarming lack of access to hospitals for those living in more sparsely populated regions of the country. While those in urban and eastern regions often have multiple options for facilities, those in rural or western areas frequently must travel hundreds of miles to obtain specialized care. This reality highlights the need for better infrastructure for telemedicine, which isn't covered by many insurers, and reassessment of our distribution of hospital services.

This interactive piece visualizes the geographic spread of different hospital types across the United States. Viewers can zoom and navigate across a map to explore hospital distribution and flexibly filter by types of facilities.

The second visualization illustrates hospital closures over time, an exacerbating factor in the issue of access. Viewers can interact with a line graph of hospital closures by toggling among different categories of hospital ownership type. Exploring these breakdowns indicates steady downward trends across all categories except for-profit hospitals, which comprise a minority of the total.

Reasons for hospital closures include decisions by some states not to expand Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act; hospital mergers and acquisitions resulting in consolidation of services; and more efficient, rapid care. Regardless of cause, however, closures result in increased time and distance to access of critical services which, for many conditions, can lead to worse outcomes. This underscores the country's need to re-evaluate and strategize deliberately regarding effective provision of critical, time-sensitive, and often life-saving resources.