With rural hospitals closing at record rates, improving – or even maintaining - access to quality healthcare is a hot topic across the country. In the last decade, 119 rural hospitals have closed across the US and nearly 50% of the remaining facilities now face negative operating margins. With a new calendar year ahead of us, including a Presidential election, healthcare challenges for our rural communities have reached a critical level.
Rural healthcare leaders like Jania Arnoldi, President and Chief Executive Officer of Valley-Wide Health Systems, Inc. in Alamosa, Colo., keep a very close eye on the future as the changes to come will impact their organizations and the communities they serve.
In 2019, hospitals all around the US worked to keep up with the increased focus on value over volume, dedicated resources to improving the patient experience, balancing their daily operating requirements with the changes in reimbursements and payment processes.
“Another large shift in 2019 has been the uncertainty of the support from the federal government,” said Ms. Arnoldi. “This has caused many healthcare organizations to pause and reassess their ability to be sustainable, given a possible large change in funding. This pause can make it difficult to plan for the future.” For rural facilities like Valley-Wide, these challenges caused ripple effects within their communities. Because rural hospitals often serve anchor institutions, loss of access to care often translates into economic problems across the community.
Entering 2020, rural healthcare and critical access healthcare facilities are facing new and continuing challenges. “I believe that many of the same challenges that have faced the healthcare industry over the last few years will continue to be big challenges in 2020, including the challenges of cybersecurity, patient experience, payments and billing and CMS policy changes,” Ms. Arnoldi said. “I believe these challenges will become more intense; I also believe the political environment and the upcoming 2020 elections have the potential to increase the pressure on improving the healthcare delivery system.”
Forward-thinking administrators like Arnoldi are implementing plans and processes that prepare their teams and their patients for whatever lies ahead.
Four key areas to consider:
A strategic plan gives your healthcare organization a roadmap for the year, goals to keep you connected and tactics to keep your team focused. “My organization’s strategic plan for the upcoming year includes a focus on employee engagement, recruitment and retention,” Ms. Arnoldi said. “We want to ensure we have a clear definition of the services our healthcare organization intends to provide, a focus on quality and patient experience and we want to create stability in our organization. It is not enough to develop our strategic plan; we have to live it every day.”
Focus on the patient.
The shift from volume-based care to value-based will impact every level of the healthcare industry – including rural health. “Healthcare has become more competitive in many areas of the country and attracting and retaining patients is more important than ever,” said Ms. Arnoldi. “Patients want and need to believe they are receiving the best care possible for the right cost. As the healthcare delivery system evolves, patient experience will be a key focus for the year 2020.”
Adapt to change.
Rural healthcare organizations are noted for their ability to weather hardships and succeed in the face of adversity. As the political climate continues to shift and regulations and financial policies alter the landscape of the industry, that ability will be crucial to survival. “Any organization that needs to make a shift in culture can sometimes find it challenging, but ensuring a strong vision related to patient experience, and living it every day, has proven to allow for the shift to begin and I believe that we are on the right path,” said Ms. Arnoldi.
Make better use of tech.
Telehealth is not the only technological innovation that can help improve access and quality of care in rural areas. Simple tools of connectivity and access to improved communication systems allow providers in rural areas to share information and gain insights with colleagues across the country, as well as keeping patient information streamlined and readily available. Providers and administrators must take advantage of the current options and push for advancements to help them provide the best care possible.
Our deepest appreciation to Jania Arnoldi for taking the time to share her thoughts with us. Ms. Arnoldi is a valued Cejka Search partner and placement, engaged for her current CEO role with Valley-Wide Health Systems in 2019. If you’re seeking a dynamic, forward-thinking leader to take your organization into 2020 and beyond, click here to contact us. We look forward to supporting your success. To learn about the relationship Cejka Search has established with Valley-Wide Health Systems, Inc, read our latest case study. We look forward to partnering with you.