A Unique Set of Challenges
Read Time: 4 minutes Rural hospitals deal with a unique set of challenges that impact patients and the surrounding community. Rural hospitals, by definition, serve small communities and don’t have the large populations and booming local economies that keep larger hospitals running. Rural hospitals struggle with low occupancy rates, which forces facilities to reduce the amount of available beds. These efforts to lower operational costs can have an impact on care management, specifically nighttime case management.
Rural hospitals also struggle with critical care and acute departments. Often, community hospitals have more beds than patients in these departments and end up becoming makeshift nursing homes. This drastically reduces revenue. Therefore, rural hospitals have trouble buying necessary equipment. Furthermore, rural hospitals may go through a variety of financial issues ranging from default payments to acquisitions.
One of the main reasons rural hospitals have trouble is due to the lack of adequate staffing. Many healthcare providers prefer to work in larger markets with more advanced equipment, diverse populations, and higher revenue. Rural hospitals face a unique problem: recruitment. Unlike larger hospitals that often have a national reputation and name recognition, rural hospitals must expend resources to attract providers. Additionally, these hospitals rely heavily on Medicare/Medicaid which means smaller payouts for providers. Most rural hospitals receive funds from Medicare/Medicaid and these insurers pay less than private insurance.
Night time case management
Due to smaller staffs and lack of beds, nighttime case management has become increasingly difficult for rural hospitals. These hospitals may not have to deal with a large amount of admissions but managing the daily and nightly needs of admitted patients is definitely an issue. Rural hospitals are often understaffed which means less nurses to work rotating shifts during the night. The hospital may also struggle to find doctors willing to be on-call in case of emergencies. Therefore, rural emergency rooms may send patients to larger hospitals to receive treatment or stabilize patients overnight until a provider comes in to examine the person.
Improving nighttime case management
Rural hospitals may need to invest in subsidiary programs like outpatient services or hospice care to supplement inpatient services. Rural hospitals can also look into government grants and funding to create or maintain additional services. Lastly, rural hospitals may have to improve recruitment efforts. Human capital is the most valuable resource for a hospital and these facilities need healthcare personnel to continue to meet the needs of small communities.