Friday, October 27, 2017

Rural hospitals and universities forge partnerships

Medical Center Hospital in Odessa.
(Odessa American photo by Edyta Blasczyk)
Rural hospitals all over the country are struggling, but some have hit on a strategy in which hospitals and universities both benefit. For example, the Texas Tech University Health Science Center placed academic surgeons (i.e. surgeons who teach medical school classes and also do research) in five rural hospitals in western Texas. The university benefited because it relies on Graduate Medical Education funding to offset the cost of indigent care and education, Medical Xpress reports. Hospitals benefit because they often have difficulty recruiting surgeons in rural areas. Hospitals also enjoyed significant financial savings, in part because the need to transfer patients to another facility was drastically reduced, which brought participating hospitals an average increase of $4.7 million in net revenue.

One of the hospitals, Medical Center Hospital in Odessa, pulled the plug on the program in April 2016 because of a dispute among local and contract surgeons about the residency program, Jennifer Bruha reports for the Odessa American. "The move would have led to cost savings at Medical Center since Texas Tech does not get paid to take call because they are a teaching facility. The hospital would have also received money for allowing the residency program because the state pays Texas Tech and then the university reimburses Medical Center for the cost, Ector County Hospital District 5 candidate Julie Molland said in May."

Texas Tech presented findings from the program at the American College of Surgeons Clinical Congress this week. "Some of the results included a reduction in rural area surgical costs, improved quality of care and an increase in revenue for the academic surgical programs," Bruha reports.

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