The Key To Saving Rural HospitalsRead Time: 4 minutes
Rural healthcare comes with a set of unique challenges. One of these is making sure that patients receive appropriate emergency care while keeping costs reasonable. Often, rural hospitals do not employ a large range of specialists seen in urban hospitals. Because of this, community hospitals struggle with needing to transfer patients who require specialized care. However, eliminating transfers that are unnecessary could be vital to saving rural hospitals.
Why avoid transfers?
In rural healthcare, hospitals often don’t have the resources to employ a wide range of specialists. In remote locations, the local hospital is often a community’s only access to quick healthcare. When patients come to the ED needing specialized care, a community hospital may have to transfer the patient to a hospital in a more urban area. This transfer process can be costly for both the hospital and the patient.
Reducing rural costs
Keeping costs lower is essential for rural hospitals, who struggle to achieve economies of scale. These institutions commonly have a payer mix made up of mostly Medicaid and Medicare patients, and the recruitment and retention of physicians to remote areas can be challenging. Because rural hospitals often serve underserved communities, keeping these institutions open is crucial.
How to avoid transfers
With technology continually evolving, hospitals have more options than ever before. One aspect of healthcare that is currently exploding with growth is telemedicine. Studies have shown that the use of telemedicine can help rural hospitals to avoid unnecessary transfers. Telemedicine allows physicians in community hospitals to collaborate with specialists in larger, urban hospitals instead of having to move the patient.
How much money is saved?
Transferring a patient by helicopter can leave a patient with a huge medical bill. Especially in rural communities, patients typically don’t have the means to cover these bills but still need emergency care. One experiment tracked the impact of using telemedicine to resuscitate newborns instead of transferring the babies. The result was an almost 30% reduction in transfers and a collective $1.2 million saved for families.
Everyone benefits from telehealth
Besides lowering costs, telehealth can offer significant benefits for physicians at rural hospitals. Remote medicine allows these providers to collaborate with specialists not typically employed at small institutions. This gives rural physicians the opportunity to continue learning from peers and growing a knowledge base. In one community, the use of telemedicine eliminated the need for an $18,000-dollar transfer of a baby born with a hole in the lung. Cost savings aside, the family was able to stay close to home and surrounded by a community of support while the newborn was cared for.
How can you use telemedicine?
There are a variety of ways that rural hospitals can utilize telehealth, from remote medicine to telepharmacy and telecase management. Start the conversation today about how using telehealth can eliminate unnecessary transfers.