Struggling rural hospitals are teaming up to survive

There are approximately 2,300 rural hospitals in the U.S., and many of them are struggling to keep their doors open.

Rural hospitals are faced with a number of challenges — from decreasing patient volumes to Congress reducing spending on Medicare — that are causing some facilities to file for bankruptcy or close. Fifty-six rural hospitals have closed since 2010, and there are 283 rural hospitals across 39 states vulnerable to closure, according to a report from iVantage Health Analytics.

To prevent having to close their doors for good, some rural hospitals are teaming up with one another. One example of this is in Arizona, where five rural hospitals came together earlier this year to form the Southern Arizona Hospital Alliance. The following hospitals joined the alliance: Benson (Ariz.) Hospital; Copper Queen Hospital in Bisbee, Ariz.; Cochise Community Hospital in Wilcox, Ariz.; Mount Graham Regional Medical Center in Safford, Ariz.; and Tucson (Ariz.) Medical Center.

The Southern Arizona Hospital Alliance is able to negotiate better prices on supplies and services than the individual hospitals would be able to on their own, according to Kaiser Health News. For example, 49-bed Mount Graham Regional Medical Center has more bargaining leverage now that is part of a purchasing entity with more than 700 beds.

The alliance in Arizona has shown promise as means for rural hospitals to remain independent, and similar models are being used by rural hospitals across the nation in Kansas, Mississippi, Washington and Wisconsin.

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