Rural hospitals ally with bigger providers to weather financial crisis

Amid an ongoing financial crisis for the nation's rural hospitals, some providers stay afloat by forming alliances with one another or larger hospitals, according to Kaiser Health News.

In southwestern Arizona, Northern Cochise Community Hospital has joined with three other rural providers and Tucson Medical Center to form the Southern Arizona Hospital Alliance. The collaboration has put the participants in a better position to negotiate supply and service prices, according to the article.

With the increased purchasing power from the partnership, Mount Graham Regional Medical Center, one of its members, expects to save six figures per year, Mount Graham CFO Keith Bryce told KHN.

Participants in such alliances also benefit from increased recruiting power if their partners can leverage their contacts and relationships to make the providers a more attractive proposition to doctors who might otherwise hesitate to work in isolated regions. Tucson has promised to help rural co-members with recruitment, and to offer practice management assistance as an incentive to doctors willing to live or practice in rural communities, the article said.

Rural participants in the alliance also hope it will provide help with medical training and information technology. For example, Copper Queen Community Hospital, which is in comparatively good financial shape, is the most advanced user of telemedicine among the members, and can connect doctors at other providers with specialists at major providers such as Phoenix's St. Luke's Medical Center.

Similar arrangements have helped rural providers survive in Kansas, Mississippi, Washington state, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Georgia.

In many cases, the partnerships also allow rural providers to remain independent so hospitals can keep their healthcare mission locally focused, FierceHealthcare previously reported. 

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