The Decline Of The Rural Hospital


Over 60 million Americans live in rural areas. These are close-knit areas that depend on small, rural hospitals for primary care. Unfortunately, rural hospitals have been closing at alarming rates. Studies show over 400 rural hospitals are at risk of closing. Some reasons include low margins due to a lack of skilled workers. To save the hospital, administrators are making a case for advanced practice providers.

emergency staffing solutions Can Advanced Practice Providers Save Rural Hospitals The Case For APPs

What is an advanced practice provider?

Long ago, the roles in a hospital were easily set. There were doctors and then nurses. Over time, the need for these roles grew exponentially. At the same time, training a new batch of doctors and nurses takes several years. The advanced practice provider was born from a need to support hospitals. APPs hold Master’s degrees or higher. Each then receives specific training to work in a particular medical specialty.

Common APP roles

Physician assistants (PAs) are the most common APP roles in hospitals. Over 140,000 PAs work in hospitals across America. PAs can assume many of the duties of doctors, including conduct exams, treat illnesses, and prescribe medication. Nurse practitioners are highly-skilled healthcare providers with similar responsibilities as a doctor. NPs can diagnose and treat diseases and are even primary healthcare providers. Midwives have been around for centuries and fall under the APP umbrella. Each role can diagnose and treat simple to complex problems.

Improving case management

Rural hospitals deal with patients entering the emergency department hourly. Since these hospitals have a small staff, patients often wait hours for treatment. Including APPs can help assess, diagnose, and treat cases. This proactive approach allows doctors to deal with more complex issues. Physician assistants or nurse practitioners can keep a steady patient flow. These APPs triage and treat conditions to keep the ED running more efficiently.

Filling critical resource gaps

Getting an adequate supply of doctors is the Achilles’ heel of rural hospitals. Fewer doctors choose to stay at these institutions for social reasons and a lack of growth. Hospitals also compete on price, having to pay larger salaries and incentives to keep doctors. By completing a needs assessment, the hospital can fill critical areas with a midwife, NP, or PA.

Reducing cost through technology

Hospitals can take cost savings and efficiency a step further by leveraging technology. Over the years, telemedicine has bridged the distance gap. This technology allows medical practitioners to diagnose and treat patients using a secure video. Hospitals can outsource telemedicine APPs to treat non-life-threatening conditions that pass through the ED.

APPs raise all hospital metrics

With essential APPs in place, the rural hospital improves in all areas of performance. Some of these areas are the reasons for hospital closures. For instance, more APP support means fewer readmissions, which costs hospitals millions per year. Patients will then not leave without being seen. Low LWBS rates are essential and can affect future patient volume. Best of all, patients won’t need to wait for hours as the hospital is covered 24/7.

APPs can turn rural hospitals around

Closed rural hospitals are dangerous to the health and wellness of Americans. These closures directly affect the death rate in rural areas. Hospitals must find ways to become more efficient, assist more patients, and improve margins. APPs can ramp up case management. These experts are trained to handle medical situations at a lower cost. More importantly, AAPs can be readily accessible to technologies like telehealth and remote case management. Consider adding one or more APPs to the workforce today.