Rural hospitals partner with larger systems to survive

State budget cuts are expected to hit rural hospitals especially hard, as they already struggle with limited financial and workforce resources.

To continue serving their oftentimes isolated communities, some rural hospitals are partnering with larger health systems nearby and across the country, giving them access to more resources and services, reports Kaiser Health News in conjunction with NPR.

Take Copper Queen Hospital in Bisbee, Ariz., for example, which is preparing to face $500 million cuts to state health spending in 2012.

Although Copper Queen might not have the resources for stroke specialists, its partnership with the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale enables it to work with specialists remotely, notes the article. Doctors 200 miles away can diagnose conditions through a video link, and then Copper Queen physicians administer the appropriate medication on site.

To maintain services, the 15-bed hospital also joined purchasing organizations with larger hospitals to buy cost-efficient medical equipment.

Partnering with larger organizations has helped Copper Queen keep costs in check, which will be vital to staying in business amid the state budget cuts.

Without such collaborations, rural hospitals will need to find ways to make ends meet until the full implementation of health reform in 2014, when insurance will be expanded to more Americans. "If what we're looking at currently is devastation, then 2014 is going to be the gravy train rolling into the station," Brian Bickel, who runs 25-bed Southeast Arizona Medical Center, said in the article.

For more:
- read the Kaiser-NPR article