A multitude of challenges is threatening the stability of rural hospitals in America, a report from the American Hospital Association (AHA) found.
Recruitment and retention of healthcare professionals is an ongoing challenge and expense, which is further complicated by geographic isolation. The report noted isolation could also be a barrier to professional development and continuing clinical education, and contributes to low availability of services, including primary care, behavioral health services and dental care.
WHY IT MATTERS
According to Health and Human Services data cited in the report, while almost 20 percent of the U.S. population lives in rural areas, less than 10 percent of U.S. physicians practice in these communities.
The AHA also pointed to emerging threats like the opioid epidemic, a rise in cybersecurity threats, medical surge capacity issues caused by natural disasters and rising levels of violence within communities, noting that rural hospitals often lack sufficient medical staff and resources to respond to such emergencies.
THE BIGGER TREND
Persistent challenges like low population density in rural areas — which results in a low patient volume — mean hospitals lack scale to cover the high fixed operating costs.
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