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Recognizing that rural hospitals are key to rural communities’ vitality, the American Hospital Association has adopted a multi-faceted strategy to identify solutions to the challenges facing these hospitals.  This strategy was outlined in an article posted by the AHA on January 28, 2020, headlined Rural health care:  Big challenges require big solutions.

The article points out that rural hospitals serve nearly 20% of Americans.  In addition, the article describes how rural hospitals offer community benefits beyond those of improving local residents’ health and well-being:  “They are often the largest local employer and help attract other businesses to the area, which can improve economic stability.  Having a hospital nearby is a sign of community vitality.”  Despite their importance for rural communities, the article recognizes that many rural hospitals are struggling financially and that 121 rural hospitals have closed since 2010. 

To identify the challenges facing rural hospitals and to identify both short-term and long-term solutions, the AHA has adopted a multi-pronged strategy.  In February 2019, the AHA published the AHA Rural Report, which identified persistent, recent, and emergent challenges facing rural hospitals and described a policy roadmap to address those challenges.  In addition, the AHA has assembled a Future of Rural Health Care Task Force, consisting of rural hospital executives from diverse backgrounds, who are charged with developing sustainable approaches to finance and deliver care in rural settings.  The article reported that the task force “is exploring solutions that integrate population health and early intervention services to improve health outcomes, prevent and manage chronic conditions, and reduce low-value services.”

The AHA is also hosting its 33rd annual Rural Health Care Leadership Conference February 2-5, 2020 in Phoenix.

The attorneys at Whatley Kallas, LLP have been working with the AHA on developing policies to assist rural hospitals.  For a link to the AHA article, please click here.  For a link to Whatley Kallas’s earlier article on an NPR report on the devastating effects of the closure of hospitals on rural communities, please click here.