Unsustainable Rural Healthcare: Bridging Gaps of Profitability


Up to 20% of Americans rely on rural hospitals. In times of sickness and injuries, those living in far-fetched communities only have rural healthcare facilities to turn to. But even if these serve as cornerstones in communities, many rural hospitals continue to shut their doors each year.

In the United States, many rural hospitals fail to generate enough profit due to the low payments from private insurance. Low insurance coverage also plays a huge role in why some hospitals in rural areas cannot pay for their operational expenses. The same goes for the following reasons:

  • Usually low volume of patients
  • More patients in rural areas are uninsured
  • Geographic location
  • Unavailability of patients’ needed diagnostic screenings and treatment

When rural healthcare settings fail to turn their finances around, this can influence the hospital’s ability to provide quality care. This will then lead to more patients opting to go to city hospitals searching for better care. When this continues to happen, closing down the hospital becomes the only viable option.

Improving Profitability in Unsustainable Rural Hospitals

The good news is there is still hope. There are ways rural hospitals can stay in operation and improve their profitability. Here’s how.

Identify the Healthcare Needs in the Community

The first step is to determine the everyday healthcare needs of the community. Knowing what many people need in terms of healthcare will make it easier for rural hospitals to understand the necessary improvements they can invest in. There is no point in starting any project when you are clueless about what many of your target population need in the first place.

For instance, the community you serve is mostly made up of seniors. This means there is a greater need for geriatric and preventive healthcare measures than pediatric healthcare. With the right data, you can be certain what your target audience needs and tailor your improvements to their very needs.

Form Strategic Partnerships

The ever-changing dynamics of the healthcare settings make it a must that for-profit rural hospitals also invest in partnering with other practices to better accommodate the needs of their patients. The lack of dialysis treatment options in rural hospitals is one good example of why many patients opt to go to bigger hospitals for their treatments and other healthcare needs.

By partnering with a reliable inpatient dialysis provider, rural hospitals can now start offering such treatment to their patients. This can drastically improve the quality of life of dialysis patients in the area. The less stressed they are when it comes to their required treatment option, the easier it will be to live a longer and healthier life.

The same goes when it comes to building nurturing relationships with referring physicians. Many patients want to see specialists in rural hospitals, only to receive treatment elsewhere. While this might seem like the referring doctors are the only ones who will benefit from such relationships, improving your relationship with them can make conversations leading to more procedures to be implemented in your hospital an easier feat.

Two senior citizens talking to a nurse in a hospital garden

Implement Targeted Marketing Techniques

There is no reason to market your for-profit rural hospital internationally when your focus is to provide quality healthcare to your local community. This is why targeted marketing makes sense for rural hospitals. Customizing your marketing campaign to suit your target audiences better will make it easier for local consumers to get to know the services you have to offer and gain confidence in your hospital.

The best place to start is by keeping in touch with your regular patients. Get to know them better, learn about their struggles, and ask them their suggestions. Listening to them will give you a better idea of reaching more community members. You can also offer the healthcare services they require and entice them to use the services of your rural hospital.

Keep Patients Engaged

Patient engagement is crucial in maintaining business profitability. If you can’t keep your patients engaged, it will be difficult to stay interested in what you have to offer. They won’t be motivated to continue visiting the hospital, and they might end up taking their own health for granted.

Here’s what you can do to keep patients engaged:

  • Encourage questions
  • Engage in conversations outside their care
  • Educate them with as much information they can process
  • Stay focused and don’t rush your time with the patient
  • Use active listening skills and never judge
  • Treat them with dignity and respect by exercising empathy

There is so much room for improvement in rural hospital settings. They face unique challenges that make marketing the hospital and rendering services tricky. But with the right improvements, you can start boosting your hospital’s profitability and increasing the satisfaction rate of everyone in the community.

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