US Rural Hospitals
Anything Market – March 2015
Nearly 20% of Americans live in rural areas, and many no longer have local access to acute care services. According to GetReferralMD.com, 43 rural hospitals closed their doors since 2010. The causes range from not expanding Medicaid to inability to meet new electronic health record standards, physician shortages, and reduced reimbursement. From 2013 through 2014, 24 closures occurred in 12 states: Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.
Some US rural hospitals are beating the closure trend. AMD Global Telemedicine describes how Baystate Health supports three community hospitals through improved connectivity to specialists at Baystate Medical Center (Springfield). With 11,500 employees, Baystate Health serves more than 750,000 residents in Western Massachusetts. Telemedicine is the key to providing cardiology, critical care, geriatric, infectious disease, neurology, and psychology consults.
Specific achievements included access to real-time clinical exams and medical data for 30 physicians in rural areas, as well as reduced cost and travel for delivering patient care at the community centers. A small existing telestroke program suggested additional clinical benefits could be gained by combining medical devices and videonconferencing in a single platform (AMD Global Telemedicine’s AGNES Interactive™ software). With only three months of training, 42 medical professionals were able to conduct consultations throughout the network.
In Oregon, coastal rural communities are expanding capacity to meet rising demand for medical services. For example, patient volumes at the Brookings Curry Medical Center have increased 45% increase (approximately 2,171 per month) since 2011. Operated by Curry Health Network, the Brookings facility and others in the area are struggling to recruit additional health care personnel. By 2030, projections suggest that the number of primary care providers throughout Oregon will fall 20% short of the ideal goal of 6,500. Nearly 25% of Oregon’s population is rural, but only 10% of the state’s physicians serve those residents.
Curry General Hospital is a Level IV trauma center that has been recertified through February 2017. According to Curry Health Network officials, USDA funding for construction of the new Curry General Hospital is pending final approval during the first quarter of 2015. The project has generated controversy because the hospital site is located in an area that could be adversely affected if there’s a large earthquake in or across the Pacific Ocean. Construction is taking that possibility into account. Gold Beach city administrators note that the new Curry General Hospital is “designed to the highest earthquake standards, even more so than what the building codes require” and is the first in the United States to address tsunami impacts. If all goes according to schedule, the hospital could open in 2016.
 “Rural Hospital Closures: How Telemedicine Could Provide Relief,” GetReferralMD.com, February 2015.
 “The Rural Hospital Landscape: Current Trends & Policies,” National Rural Health Association, August 20, 2015. [2015PolicyInstituteAskDRCredits.pdf from www.ruralhealthweb.org]
 “Baystate Health Brings ‘Big-city’ Specialist Access To Two Community Hospitals Using AGNES™ Software From AMD Global Telemedicine,” AMD Global Telemedicine (www.amdtelemedicine.com/success-stories/CustomerSuccess-BaystateHealth.html).
 “Replace The General,” www.facebook.com/replacethegeneral (several posts from November 2014 through February 2015).
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