In the last five years, US rural hospital closures and financial losses have continuously hit record highs. The two major components of these losses are from cuts to Medicaid reimbursements and the failure to properly implement health IT solutions that have the ability to significantly cut rising healthcare costs.
Medicaid expansion delays and the closure of rural hospitals
- Since 2010, 57 of the 2,200, or a staggering 1/3, of rural hospitals across more than 20 US states have been closed. (Click here for a complete list of hospital closures)
- In 2016, an estimated 673 rural hospitals across 42 US states are facing financial losses significant enough to face closures.
- 63% of hospitals currently facing closures are located in states that have not expanded Medicaid, signaling a direct correlation between reimbursement measures stressing the financial situation in rural hospitals.
- The 637 at-risk rural hospitals will result in an estimated $227 billion loss in gross domestic product.
- A study released by University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, expansion of Medicaid resulted in a 50% drop in uninsured patients receiving care within a mere 6 months.
These numbers clearly illustrate the need to expand Medicaid in order to save rural hospitals from losses due to lack of reimbursements, but whether this will be the case has yet to be seen. However certain politicians, including Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, have begun to support the possibility of statewide expansion. The argument against Medicaid expansion is the increase in taxes that would be required.
Health technology as a solution to rural hospital closures
Hospitals need to start looking past Medicaid reimbursements, and look instead for technology solutions that are able to save both money and resources. Remote patient monitoring and automated patient services are two solutions to the wide sweeping rural hospital closures, but we need to get in on the ground level of these hospitals for easy implementation for guaranteed compliance.
The patient demographic in rural hospitals tends to be older and less financially stable, and therefore have a more difficult time adopting newer methods of healthcare technology. They also have a higher rate of chronic disease, accounting for a very high cost of care due to repetitive appointments which is why rural hospitals have such a huge economic burden. When implementing new technologies, we need to be paying attention to easy implementation and intuitive interfaces so that compliance is high, as well as solutions that can be used across patient disease demographics.