3 Ways Rural Hospitals Can Increase Community Perception

  • Healthcare Management
  • medical management - Rural Hospitals
  • January 5, 2023

Rural hospitals can lose patients due to poor community perception. Establishing higher service can help restore the image.

Perception Matters With Community Hospitals

Rural hospitals make up an important part of the fabric of small communities across America. These facilities provide critical care, helping those who would otherwise need to travel long distances for medical care. The reputation and perception of rural hospitals are crucial to maintaining patient volume, an essential factor in helping keep the facility in operation. Perception is also vital to entice people to keep using the health services offered and encourage others to do the same. One false step and the reputation of the hospital falls dramatically. If rural hospitals notice declining community perception, immediate action is necessary to restore the overall image.

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Why does perception fall?

When community perception declines, this could signal tough times ahead for the hospital. There are a few reasons this can happen. An unfortunate or unavoidable incident is a typical example, while long wait times, low-quality care, or poor case management are others. Some hospitals have changes in cost, insurance, or lose critical members of the healthcare team. Rural communities are tight-knit and show a united front on most issues. If left unchecked, rural hospitals struggle to stay afloat. By taking these 3 action steps, hospitals can rebuild and strengthen.

1. Improve case management

Hospitals depend on several measurements to gauge overall success. One such measurement is case management, where the patient’s care plan is designed and managed on time. Case management requires competent healthcare professionals to see the patient quickly, assess the issue, and recommend the appropriate treatment. If case management does not run smoothly, patients can leave without being seen (LWBS) or against medical advice (AMA), reducing perception. Improving case management means placing the right people in the correct positions, streamlining operations, and establishing follow-up care. By default, all other measurements will improve.

2. The voice of the people

Hospital management must take patient feedback seriously, especially in rural communities. Most patients provide feedback using Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) surveys. HCAHPS are nationally standardized assessments of a hospital’s performance through a patient’s eyes. The results are public, and some hospitals are even compensated for high performance. However, the real value comes from using the data to improve perceptions. The hospital can invest in equipment, staff, and other factors that will yield the fastest return on investment.

3. Re-establish the brand

Behind every hospital lies a brand, which can be easily destroyed with the rise of social media. Even if the hospital works on improving systems, there is no value if the community is unaware of these changes. Therefore, investing in brand building is paramount to future success. In rural communities, brand building involves more face-to-face interactions and the use of social media. Many of the members of the hospital live in the community. Implementing outreach programs while using local press and social media helps patients see the value of the hospital.

Perception is reality

A hospital’s perception or reputation can be damaged quickly and sometimes takes a long time to recover. A single patient’s negative view of the hospital can spread throughout the community, bringing down the perception of the facility. However, taking the necessary steps to improve the quality of care can go a long way. Focus on case management, patient satisfaction, and brand perception.

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