Friday, July 24, 2015

Struggling rural hospitals can survive by strengthening connection to community

Struggling rural hospitals can remain open by adapting to changing times. They can grow outpatient and emergency care, shrink inpatient care and develop large emergency rooms with a few beds for observation to hold a patient for transport as part of Accountable Care Organizations, said Richard Grundling, vice president of healthcare financial practices at the Healthcare Financial Management Association, Sherree Geyer reports for Healthcare Finance.

Grundling said rural hospitals can take advantage of being the only healthcare option in the region, Geyer writes. He told her, "You are the only provider. Strengthen your community connections. Enhance patient experience because most people prefer to have their care closer to home."

Since 2010, an estimated 55 rural hospitals in 23 states have closed, Geyer writes. Closings are blamed on the recession, refusal of some states to expand Medicaid under federal health reform, doctor shortages, "demographic and market changes and decreased demand and new models of care."

Grundling told Geyer, "Rural health has lots of challenges, which became particularly true after ACA was passed. They lack the economies of scale, have limited access to capital. Because of the infrequency of certain surgical procedures, they have difficulty matching quality standards with larger hospitals and limited ability to track and maintain physicians and clinical support staff."

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