Rumors about the health of rural hospitals circulate in small towns all the time. The hospital isn’t going to make it. It’s going bankrupt. It’s going to close.
The rumors may not be true in every case, but they reflect a discouraging trend: A recent study found that one-fifth of rural hospitals in the United States are at a high risk of shutting down.
The study, released earlier this year by Navigant, a consulting firm based in Chicago, says a total of 95 rural hospitals across 26 states have closed since 2010.
Rural hospitals are at risk in Georgia and across the country
About 20 percent of rural hospitals – a total of 430 – are at high risk of closure due to their financial situations. Their closures would affect 150,000 jobs. A range of factors contributes to the growing threat to rural hospitals including:
- Loss of manufacturing and farming jobs in the community. These losses force residents to move to more urban areas. The ones who remain in the towns are typically very old or very young, unemployed, uninsured, and Medicaid/Medicare patients.
- The hospital’s inability to keep up with technology. Dwindling patient numbers means less capital for improvements.
- Talent struggles. Rural hospitals struggle to attract and retain staff to remain competitive with neighboring hospitals.
Federal healthcare cuts, particularly to Medicare, also took a heavy toll on rural hospitals. The rate of rural hospital closures increased six-fold between 2010 and 2015.
Consider this: 77 percent of rural counties in the United States are considered “primary care health professional shortage areas.” Nine percent have no physicians, according to the National Rural Healthcare Association.
Reviving rural hospitals
LifeBrite Hospital Group recognizes the role rural hospitals play in a community and seeks to help revive threatened or closed hospitals in rural areas.
“Not only do these hospitals provide vital healthcare, they are also key economic drivers in a community,” said CEO Christian Fletcher. “We aim to restore these facilities so they can attract new patients, increase cash flow, and help support the overall health of the community.”
LifeBrite Hospital Group currently operates rural hospitals in its home state of Georgia and in North Carolina. It focuses on implementing innovative technology, such as electronic medical records (EMR) systems, to improve patient care as well as simplify the billing and claims processes.
Adding hospital administration expertise
It also brings its expertise in all areas of administration and patient care, including:
- Advertising and marketing services including websites, promotional material, classes and sponsorships to the companies and facilities it manages.
- Healthcare legal resources with decades of experience in healthcare permits and certification processes.
- Information systems to improve patient records and billing and claims processes.
- Access to capital needed to reopen, staff and grow previously closed hospitals.
Above all, LifeBrite brings a commitment to protecting and preserving rural hospitals and serving the members of those communities.
Pamela Tillman, administrator for LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes, in Danbury, N.C., says she fights the rumor mill by visiting with community groups and government officials and staying in touch with the patients so she can tell them about the services the hospital offers.
“There has been a rumor going around since I started that the hospital is going to close. We have never closed and have no intention of closing,” she said.
Atlanta-based LifeBrite Hospital Group, led by CEO Christian Fletcher, operates LifeBrite Community Hospital of Early, LifeBrite Laboratories, and LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes. To learn more about LifeBrite Hospital Group, visit our homepage.