Rural Hospitals at a Crossroads as Margins Weaken

July 20, 2015

Healthcare Finance News (Geyer, 7/20) reported, “Since 2010, across 23 states, 55 rural hospitals— short-term, general-acute, non-federal hospitals outside a metropolitan county— have closed, according to the Sheps Center at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. … The Center's North Carolina Rural Health Research Program traces the closures to the 2008 recession, aided by demographic and market changes, decreased demand and new models of care, including accountable care organizations.” Richard Grundling, vice president of healthcare financial practices at the Healthcare Financial Management Association said that “rural hospitals will adapt by ‘growing outpatient and emergency care and shrinking inpatient care [and develop] large emergency rooms with a few beds for observation to hold a patient for transport as part of ACOs." Brock Slabach, senior vice president for member services at the National Rural Health Association, said that “we're going to have to rethink what a hospital means and find a provider type sensitive to the needs of rural communities and adapt it effectively."