Via Journel of American Medical Association (JAMA) is an invitation us to keep looking at the plight of rural hospitals in light of decreasing rural population. Dr. Diana Mason writes:
But other rural communities, home to nearly 20% of the US population, are not so fortunate. Since 2010, 78 of the more than 2150 rural nonspecialty US hospitals have closed. While the closure rate has recently declined, the proportion of financially struggling rural hospitals has increased. When a rural hospital closes, the economic losses can devastate an already stressed community through loss of health care workers, emergency services, and primary care capacity, as well as higher unemployment and lower per-capita income, a drop in housing values, poorer health, and increasing health disparities.
Why are rural hospitals at higher risk of closure than urban hospitals? George Pink, PhD, Deputy Director of the North Carolina Rural Health Research Program, sees 3 main contributors:
- Market factors. Rural areas tend to have poorer population health, higher unemployment rates, and stiffer competition from other hospitals
- Hospital factors. These include low occupancy rates, lack of physician coverage, deteriorating facilities, and patient safety concerns
- Financial factors. From 2012 to 2014, for example, rural hospitals averaged a 2% operating margin, compared with 5.9% for urban hospitals