A Virginia provider may have a solution for rural hospitals

How does a rural hospital prosper when so many such facilities continue to struggle? 

That's a question many ask Augusta Health, a 255-bed hospital in Fishersville, Virginia, because it seems to have an answer.

The News-Virginian reports that the rural provider has more than doubled in size and patient capacity since it opened its doors 21 years ago.

Among the keys to its success: Not accumulating debt, and ongoing expense reduction. For example, Augusta Health recently introduced a five-year plan to reduce expenses by $38 million. 

Augusta Health's fortunes are a standout among Virginia's hospitals, where a quarter of the state's acute care providers and 42 percent of its rural hospitals operated at a loss last year, according to the article. State officials attribute that in part to the state's decision so far not to expand Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act, as well as limited use of a bed tax to extract more matching payments from the Medicaid program, the News-Virginian reports. 

But rural hospitals are struggling financially across the nation. About 1 in 8 is in danger of closing due to its poor financial situation. In just a few days earlier this summer, facilities in both Arizona and Nevada shut their doors, even though the organizations had taken some fairly critical steps to keep operating. Some facilities have looked to alliances with larger more urban providers in order to diversify services and survive. Other facilities have prospered through expansion.

In other states with large number of rural hospitals, the lack of Medicaid expansion has also been acutely felt, the Picayune Item reported. But rural providers also need to experiment with other ways to deliver care more efficiently, such as expanding the scope of practice for nurse practitioners and the greater use of outpatient clinics, according to the article.

To learn more:
- read the News-Virginian article 
- check out the Picayune Item article