Friday, January 01, 2016

Stories about the problems of rural hospitals led The Rural Blog's readership list in 2015

Stories about the problems of rural hospitals led the list of most-read topics on The Rural Blog in 2015. Of the 60 blog posts that were viewed at least 250 times by TRB readers, eight excerpted stories about rural hospitals, and some related items also had high readership.

The most-read item on the topic was one on Aug. 4 about the struggles of rural hospitals in Alabama, Oklahoma and Nebraska, perhaps appealing because it dealt with three states. Close behind was one published the day before, about a community's reopening of a southwest Virginia hospital that a chain had closed. Next in line was a Feb. 19 report on how the Syracuse Journal in Kansas had held the local hospital accountable in the face of claims by its fired administrator about "negative press."

We said in that item, "With many rural hospitals in financial trouble, rural news media need to cover their activities. Some handle hospitals with kid gloves, because they are such important local institutions, often run by well-regarded local people. But in many cases the accountability for these institutions is fuzzy, and rural news media are in a position to increase accountability."

Other well-read reports on rural hospitals included a March 18 item about hospitals facing federal reimbursement cuts for high readmission rates; one the day before reporting that 48 rural hospitals had closed since 2010 and 283 more were in trouble; an April 17 item noting that four of the 10 closures in Texas were due to a fraud case; and a July 24 item quoting an expert advising rural hospitals to strengthen their connections to their communities.

Some related reports also had high readership, such as a Jan. 16 item about the shortage of doctors in rural areas and one on June 9 about a national survey of rural stakeholders, which found that their top concern was access to health care, being limited partly by the closing of rural hospitals.

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