How to Improve Rural Healthcare Delivery
Rural and community hospitals are in a unique position to meet the healthcare needs of the communities they serve. They are also especially vulnerable to the types of challenges that significantly impact operations and long-term financial viability. To maintain or regain a position of strength, here are some tips for improving access to care and delivery of services.
Cater to Market Needs
Use market demographics and payer mix data to drive a strategic approach to new services and program offerings. These market-specific ideas have worked for CHC client hospitals:
- Yoakum Community Hospital’s market includes a high percentage of older adults with diabetes, so adding a wound care program made sense. The Wound Care Clinic went on to receive RestorixHealth’s Center of Excellence award, and the Texas hospital plans to add hyperbaric therapy.
- An aging demographic often needs geriatric counseling services, and Yoakum Community Hospital identified a need to improve behavioral healthcare offerings following the suicides of five senior-aged men in the community. The hospital then created an inpatient and outpatient behavioral healthcare continuum model.
- When a competitor’s closing left a healthcare gap in a nearby town, Freestone Medical Center in Fairfield, Texas, fulfilled that gap by expanding a satellite clinic in Teague, a community 10 miles southwest of the hospital.
- To help keep more elderly patients with heart and lung conditions healthy and active, cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation services may be the answer.
- For rural hospitals seeking to increase the frequency and speed of specialty services, telemedicine technology provides clinical healthcare to many remote communities.
Team up to Meet Market Needs
Meeting community health needs may mean teaming up with area providers and agencies. Collaborative efforts, including clinical affiliations with other hospitals, can improve population health management and care delivery. Government support can also help broaden the services a hospital provides. For example, state and federal grant dollars support clinical and preventive services such as mammograms. Funding is available for telemedicine services and health information technology as well.
Plan for the Future
Annual strategic planning is the key to long-term success. Include a marketplace health needs assessment and medical staff planning in the process.