Rural Hospital Care Delivers the Best of Patient Experiences
As I return to my busy schedule after the holiday season, I am reminded of the classic holiday song lyrics, “There’s no place like home for the holidays.” Home for me is a small rural town in northern Maine and is truly a winter wonderland this time of year – TM mountain vistas, evergreens, the frozen expanse of Moosehead Lake, and of course snow; lots and lots of snow. During our holiday visits, we make it a special point to visit my wife’s grandmother, who has spent the last few months in our local community hospital recovering from surgery.
Those of us who work in rural healthcare are very fortunate, in that we know our patients. I mean REALLY know our patients. We know their birthdays, their family members (by name); we have celebrated births and deaths, and have broken bread at many community suppers. It truly is a large extended family, warts and all. After moving to the hustle and bustle of a large city, coming home for the holidays is truly a magical time. Nowhere was this more evident than when we made our visits to see Gram. At 94 years young, she is truly the grand dame and matriarch of our family. Not only is she the center of our family, she has also become the center of attention and affection at our local hospital.
As a healthcare analyst, I am very familiar with the quality care and high patient satisfaction associated with our rural hospitals. Consider these consumer assessment findings from iVantage’s 2013 Rural Relevance Under Healthcare Reform Study:
- “Definitely Recommend” ” At the 75th percentile, median and 25th percentile break points, rural hospitals perform at the same level as urban hospitals (1% variance).
- “Overall Rating 9-10″ ” At the 75th percentile, rural hospitals outperform urban hospitals by 4%, at the 50th percentile, rural hospitals outperform urban hospitals by 3%, and at the 25th percentile, rural hospitals outperform urban hospitals by 3%.
What do these data points tell us? It’s pretty simple – rural hospital performance on HCAHPS patient experience survey measures is better than urban hospitals.
As a family member, I have seen these findings in action and am not at all surprised. When Gram first entered the hospital, she experienced fear, modesty, loneliness and uncertainty. Theses feelings were quickly relieved through the compassion, understanding, and family-like setting of our local hospital. She quickly became the center of attention and assumed the role of the grandmother figure for the staff. On our visits, staff would stop by just to say “hi”, give her a hug, and to tell her about their lives and the holiday goings-on in town. In no time her fears were alleviated and she began to heal.
As Gram has transitioned to the next level of care in her recovery, the staff has been there — encouraging, pushing her in her rehabilitation, and providing the good-hearted teasing as only a true family member could do. During the holidays, this was only amplified.
With all of the uncertainty and change in healthcare today, our community is blessed to still hold on to our local hospital. Rural hospitals are an important asset in many communities across the US ” to the communities they serve, to patients and their families, and to the people who work in their facilities. But they face increasing challenges ” financial, operational and political. Sustaining these rural hospitals couldn’t be more important today and I’m happy to support them through the work we do at iVantage and through our support of the National Rural Health Association.