Rural Hospital Software & Information Technology: Strategies for Success
Rural hospitals are the heartbeat of healthcare in America, serving nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population and ministering to the nation’s sickest and poorest patients. Not only do they provide vital care to a population with the highest rates of chronic disease, but they also support thousands of jobs and contribute to the economic lifeblood of many small towns and communities.
Financial and demographic pressures are threatening the existence of these cornerstone institutions, causing 83 rural hospitals to shut down over the past decade and hundreds more to fight to keep their doors open. Nearly 673 rural hospitals—about a third of those in operation—are in danger of closing, putting 11.7 million rural patients at risk of losing direct access to care, according to the National Rural Health Association (NRHA).
Rural hospitals have always operated on thin margins, but recent cuts in Medicare funding, declining reimbursements from payers, and higher out-of-pocket costs for patients who struggle to pay their bills or put off treatment altogether have strapped them even more. 2017 marked the end of many hospital relief programs, and though legislators are working to pass more, rural hospitals must find new ways to survive and thrive in today’s changing healthcare landscape.
Despite the obstacles they face, rural providers can strengthen and sustain their organizations by tapping market-driven strategies and technologies that help them navigate value-based pressures, consumerism, and other industry challenges.
5 Ways Rural Hospitals can Make Facilities Profitable and Efficient:
- Deliver more value. Cost-effective mobile technology and analytics-as-a-service subscriptions can help hospitals track and improve patient outcomes tied to reimbursements. Hospitals can also use social media, online portals, mobile applications, and customer relationships management (CRM) tools to deliver more targeted community outreach, raising their local profile and appeal with statewide networks and ACOs.
- Cut tech expenses. Hospitals can wrangle in health IT spending by investing in clinical and financial technologies designed for smaller hospitals and cloud solutions that reduce the total cost of ownership and demand for internal IT support. Solutions like these can improve service levels and make IT spending more predictable.
- Improve interoperability. Sharing information with patients and providers outside the hospital is vital for improving care and adapting to new payment models. For community hospitals with cost, bandwidth, and space limitations, investing in off-site EHR technology and promoting adoption of EHRs among physicians and patients can help further these efforts. Integrating clinical and financial systems within the hospital can also help providers coordinate care and monitor and track outcomes more effectively.
- Build hospital loyalty. Strengthening ties with consumers, physicians, and the local community through digital platforms can help hospitals boost admissions and encourage preference for their facilities. Hospital-branded mobile apps build patient loyalty, and marketing-as-a-service subscriptions offer hospitals a cost-effective option for engaging consumers and achieving population health goals.
- Get patients involved. Beyond establishing trust and goodwill, engaging patients can empower them to manage their health better, improving outcomes for hospitals. Medical staff can use newer mobile apps to educate patients on chronic disease, enhance follow-up care and treatment compliance, and monitor the health status of patients more thoroughly to prevent readmissions and other setbacks.
Products and Services
MEDHOST has been providing products and services to healthcare facilities of all types and sizes including rural health facilities for over 35 years. Today, more than 1,000 healthcare facilities are partnering with MEDHOST and are enhancing their patient care and operational excellence with our fully integrated clinical and financial solutions.
We offer solutions and engagement platforms that enable rural hospitals to enhance care, streamline facility management, and maximize patient volumes and profitability along with clinical and financial services that fit any budget and can be hosted. We also drive initiatives like chronic condition management, access to health and wellness content, and community engagement. Moreover, we strive to provide support that complements the efforts of internal hospital staff, freeing rural providers up to focus on the reason they exist: providing excellent care to patients who need it most.
As an NHRA partner, we are committed to helping these facilities improve the efficiency of the vital services they bring to their communities and develop new strategies to grow and evolve through challenging times.