Assessing Outbound Trends: Why Are Patients Bypassing Small Hospitals?

  • Healthcare Management
  • medical management - Rural Hospitals
  • May 20, 2022

Small hospitals can help serve more of the community by addressing physician shortages and more while promoting baseline healthcare literacy.

Are Small Hospitals In Trouble?

Hospitals in underserved areas face a diverse set of barriers from a lack of physician coverage and patient access to negative profit margins. While rates of telehealth rise across the country, access to healthcare in remote parts of the US remains uniquely challenging. Rates of mortality between rural population bases and urban communities have widened over the past 2 decades, reaching over 18% Shortages of doctors, minimal insurance coverage and health literacy, and social stigma all contribute to patients bypassing small hospitals.

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More doctors, please

Quality medical care hinges on the healthcare staff; without proper personnel, a hospital cannot provide adequate resources to the community. Over 60% of recent physician shortages are located in remote areas. Without a robust staff of physicians, the supply of care services runs out. While basic medical care cannot guarantee lower mortality rates, unobstructed access to healthcare is foundational to preserving the vitality of any small community.

Keeping up with the coverage

Potential patients without financial resources such as insurance coverage have a higher likelihood of going without medical care. 12% of people in underserved counties lacked health insurance in comparison to 10% for largely urban counties. Low population rates require some residents to travel long distances for financially accessible care resources. Opening healthcare centers specifically for small populations helps lower the barrier and distance traveled to medical care.

The privacy factor

The stigma of specific health concerns and the lack of anonymity often found in remote communities build distrust in hospitals and clinicians. Small communities may be largely unlikely to seek treatment for reproductive and sexual health issues, mental health, and substance abuse due to the associated social stigma. On the other hand, small hospitals build trust with quality care and educational resources within the community.

With knowledge comes empowerment

Without a baseline of medical knowledge, many patients go without medical care. Ensuring patient compliance is key to addressing information gaps found in remote communities. Small hospitals can foster trust by promoting the importance of healthcare information throughout the community. Accessible resources such as free classes, contraception, and leaflets allow individual patients both privacy and information.

Providing care for all

Small hospitals face unique barriers to providing care to communities. However, multiple strategies can improve patient access. Combating physician shortages, providing low-cost care options, promoting healthcare literacy, and prioritizing patient education all help small hospitals better support the community.

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