Rural hospitals are arguably more important now than ever before. A small community relies heavily on its local hospital. It serves as a hub and a key component of an area’s healthcare landscape and economic well-being.
These hospitals play an ever-increasing role in stabilizing patients during some of the most emergent times of their lives. A stroke or heart attack sufferer, a victim of a car accident, a mother experiencing an emergency baby delivery, and others facing serious issues seek refuge at rural hospitals. Additionally, these facilities typically offer a more comprehensive suite of services. This can include rehabilitation, long-term care, home health, and primary care.
According to a 2017 rural health study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), citizens in these communities may need the most medical assistance. It states “rural Americans are more likely to die from heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, chronic lower respiratory disease, and stroke than their urban counterparts.” The same report shows that rural Americans also experience an approximate 50% increase in unintentional injury deaths, in part due to long travel distances resulting in a greater risk of motor vehicle accidents and lower seatbelt use.
And the challenges continue. Rural hospitals have historically faced razor-thin operating margins. This has been further exacerbated by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has stretched an already vulnerable group of hospitals even further. The nursing shortage has created huge gaps in patient care. It is especially apparent at rural hospitals, as it is very difficult for them to compete with wages offered by larger tertiary hospitals.
Other obstacles include Medicare sequestration, an increase in inputs and consumable costs, and a decrease in reimbursements. Over time it has become very difficult for long-term financial viability to be afforded to rural hospitals.
On the economic front, rural hospitals are commonly one of the largest employers in rural areas. According to the Rural Health Information Hub, the health sector provides 14% of total employment in rural communities. In addition to providing jobs, adequate health and emergency services also attract new businesses and industries, while bringing and retaining visitors, workers, and retirees to the area.
Our goal at LifeBrite is to remedy the disparities facing these hospitals and their patients, while simultaneously helping boost their local economies. We bring in cutting-edge technology such as upgraded imaging services, remote patient monitoring for those with comorbidities, and state-of-the-art electronic medical record capabilities so healthcare providers can be more efficient in providing patient care.
As LifeBrite Hospital Group moves forward, we continue recognizing the importance of rural hospitals, which inspires our overall mission and dedication to these facilities and their communities today and tomorrow.
Atlanta-based LifeBrite, led by CEO Christian Fletcher, operates LifeBrite Community Hospital of Early, LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes, and LifeBrite Laboratories.