Georgia explores new future for rural hospitals

Rural hospitals have struggled to remain financially viable amid an industry shift to large urban care centers.

The future of rural hospitals has grown uncertain as more patients seek specialized care in large, urban-centered care complexes. This blog has reported on many small hospitals that were forced to close their doors and leave local residents without close access to medical care. As rural hospitals continue to struggle to stay solvent, Georgia has made changes to existing legislation in order to provide more options for these care centers to remain fiscally viable. 

Georgia's Department of Community Health has changed its rules to allow a rural hospital that's failing or has already closed in the last year to scale back its operations and reopen as a freestanding emergency room. Before this decision, only full-service hospitals that could offer inpatient services and other expensive criteria were allowed to operate emergency rooms. 

"A hospital closes now, particularly in a small, rural community, there's nothing, nothing," said Clyde Reese, commissioner of Georgia's Department of Community Health to ABC News. "So this is an attempt to have something, some service, some infrastructure left in a community so all the doctors won't leave, so the EMS services won't leave and follow the facilities."

As part of the agreement in allowing these facilities to reduce operations, the emergency care must be available 24 hours a day and treat all uninsured patients. They are also required to be less than 35 miles from an existing full-service hospital, in order to transport extreme cases in time to receive more specialized help.

If your facility has had difficulty with medical claims management, consider outsourcing your medical accounts receivable in order to increase cash flow. This decision can often result in a sharp reduction in losses due to missed filing appeal deadlines.