While rural hospitals have been closing at an accelerating rate all over America, there are some that have been doing very well despite clinical, regulatory and reimbursement challenges facing the sector. They do it by expanding, of all things.
One, reports STAT, is the 39-bed public, nonprofit Childress (Texas) Regional Medical Center, which has a positive bottom line on its annual operating budget of $28 million. The facility, unlike many, perhaps most, rural hospitals is expanding clinical services, including telemedicine, and increasing the number of its physicians and the hours at its primary-care clinic.
Included in the expansion: In 2013 it added an orthopedic surgeon so that the facility no longer has to transfer patients 200 miles away if they need an orthopedic operation. Then there’s the oncologist from the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, in Lubbock, who comes once a month to see patients at Childress. Also, specialists in urology and cardiology visit the facility at least once a month to see patients.
Telemedicine lets physicians consult with specialists at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas about complex cases. And Childress recently bought another telemedicine unit for its outpatient primary-care clinic to let its physicians consult with Lubbock-based cardiologists and psychiatrists.
To read the STAT report, please hit this link.
The Childress story of how expanding rather than hunkering down can spawn success reminds us of a 2015 article in FierceHealthcare that says, among other things:
“Four years ago, Putnam County Memorial Hospital in Unionville, Missouri, faced a major budget deficit while struggling to provide care for a largely uninsured, elderly and low-income patient population. Reducing staff seemed like the obvious solution, but this would have put the organization at even more of a disadvantage in terms of the care it could provide. Rather than cut back, Putnam County Memorial decided to go bigger, turning a 10-bed unit into a psychiatric unit and later recruiting specialists in anesthesiology, cardiology and gynecological services. After they added these new services, revenues climbed to $22 million, and average patient volume per day increased from fewer than one to more than 12.
“As unlikely as the expansion strategy seems, it could benefit other rural facilities as well, according to the Rural Policy Research Institute. ‘We think that’s the way forward for rural hospitals, rather than just sort of a bunker mentality–saying that we can’t proceed,’ Tim McBride, a healthcare expert with the institute, told National Public Radio.”
To read the FierceHealthcare article, please hit this link.