By Zack Budryk
Rural hospitals, despite their financial woes, are equal to their urban counterparts in outcomes, and ahead in emergency care. With this in mind, it may benefit rural providers to examine innovative solutions that work smarter as well as harder.
For example, Western Maryland Regional Medical Center, a rural facility in Cumberland, refocused its efforts on preventable care and found the elusive balance of improved outcomes and lower costs, cutting readmissions 21 percent year-over-year while reducing costs by $3.5 million thanks to a new clinical center.
Western Maryland and other rural facilities in the Old Line State have thrived amid the crisis, due in large part to a 2010 agreement with the state Health Services Cost Review Commission. Under the arrangement, the participants are guaranteed a budget to experiment with innovative healthcare solutions, and if a provider runs a deficit, it has the option to offset it with price increases, but must also cut prices if it has a surplus. Between 2010 and 2013, Western Maryland Health Systems slashed admissions by 15 percent and reported a profit of $15 million in fiscal 2012.