Collaboration and Determination Carry the Day at 2014 NRHA Critical Access Hospital Conference

October 10, 2014
William Balfour

By Dan Evans, Account Executive.

Your Voice, Louder. The NRHA’s slogan rang loud and true last week at the 2014 CAH Conference in Kansas City. Given the mounting challenges in the rural health community, it was no surprise that the regulatory and industry updates delivered Maggie Elehwany, NRHA, and Priya Bathija, AHA, were the focal point for an anxious crowd. As one hospital administrator remarked, “I am fearful that this is a slippery slope where Washington will continue to cut from what they perceive as low-hanging fruit to pay for other projects deemed more important. We must defend our status and continue to show that rural healthcare is a critical component for providing proper access to healthcare.”

Across the country, rural hospitals face an uncertain future. Issues such as the distance requirement, OPPS reimbursement and the 96-hour rule are top of mind in an environment where the number of rural hospitals shutting their doors is rising. The stark reality of the situation was reviewed by Alan Morgan, CEO at the NRHA, who reviewed the 26 rural hospitals which have already closed their doors this year. With 283 others at risk (according to the Hospital Strength INDEX), future viability rests on the ability of hospitals to adapt.

I was really struck by the level of support and collaboration on display during the breakout sessions. Despite the uncertainty and troubling statistics, there was a tremendous sense of resiliency. New research (presented by Brock Slabach and Scott Goodspeed) in fact, shows that rural hospital performance is in on par with ” or better than ” urban facilities in a number of areas such as quality, cost, charge, patient satisfaction and ED throughput. With strong evidence dismissing the notion of a failing rural healthcare system, the conference continuously gained momentum as the attendees drew from the wealth of social capital.

The conference’s final day awards ceremony, which recognized the Top 20 Critical Access Hospitals in a variety of categories, was a fitting conclusion. As a member of a team focused on the rural market, the ceremony (and conference as a whole) was proof positive that with the proper tools, information and passion, the critical access hospital will continue to play an important role in the country’s healthcare system.


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