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Rural Matters

Sep 10, 2018

New host Michelle Rathman examines the state of rural health and the complex issue of rural hospital closures with Alan Morgan, Chief Executive Officer of the National Rural Health Association (NRHA). According to Rathman and the NRHA, about 60 million people are served by rural health care providers, running the gamut from the elderly to young families. Amid the pressures and challenges in rural health, Morgan notes there is some good news – increased innovation and a lot of new models and practices being implemented, such as utilizing the expertise of community health workers; integrating oral health into primary care; greater emphasis on chronic care management; and the growing application of telehealth solutions. New collaborations between rural hospitals and more urban and academic medical institutions are another positive development. But as Morgan explains, rural hospitals continue to close – 87 since 2010—and most of those will never re-open. In addition, more of the rural population is elderly; the need for behavioral health services is rising; the opioid crisis affects rural communities in a big way; and federal and state reimbursements for Medicare and Medicaid have been decreasing. Rathman and Morgan also discuss what happens to a rural community when its hospital closes and how stakeholders from all sectors of a community can come together to improve their health status. Morgan references recent research from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that highlights some “bright spots” in Appalachia where key health indicators show that some parts of this heavily rural area of the country are doing better than expected. Find it here: Bright Spots Research

The national sponsor for this episode is AASA, The School Superintendents Association. Learn more at