How Competition in Healthcare is Ruining Rural Hospitals

According to this article in Becker’s Hospital Review, the United States is facing a rural hospital closure crisis. The article lists important trends on these closures: how many, where, and what kind of hospitals face the greatest risk. These trends lead me to believe that these hospitals are mostly critical access facilities that don’t compare to the modernity and versatility of larger health systems.


Indeed, health care systems that take on a value-based approach attract more patients. They are making themselves more marketable to patients by providing a wide variety of health services in smaller facilities and using the most up-to-date equipment. Even when the hospitals are further away from rural citizens, they are able to bring new patients into their health system with specialty care facilities, and that encourages patients to continue their healthcare with that system regardless of distance.


Singular critical access hospitals don’t have the resources to reach out to more patients. They’re there when you need them and in emergencies, but cannot compete for patients with less money for updating and expanding facilities. They also have less of a financial cushion to take on uncompensated care. The rural communities they serve are older, have more complicated health conditions, and are more likely to be uninsured. These people need critical care, but these hospitals aren’t bringing in enough business to cover costs, with almost half of beds remaining empty.


While critical access hospitals are a vital part of any rural community, their lack of resources to appeal to new patients becomes their downfall when faced with the competition of comprehensive care systems with consolidated finances.