Since 2010, 76 rural hospitals have closed and another 673 are vulnerable to closure in the United States. Last year, a rural hospital in Douglas, AZ closed, forcing individuals to travel long distances to access care, and 60 people lost their jobs.
In response, The University of Arizona Center for Rural Health (AzCRH) at the UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health was awarded a three-year $348,000 grant by the Health Resources and Services Administration to support the Arizona Small Rural Hospital Improvement Grant Program (AzSHIP).
The grant supports 13 small rural hospitals with fewer than 50 beds for health system reforms such as value-based purchasing programs, accountable care organizations and payment bundling. All but two of the hospitals are federally designated Critical Access Hospitals with fewer than 25 beds and located more than 35 miles from another hospital.
The participating small rural hospitals include for-profit, not-for-profit and tribal organizations that provide short-term, general acute hospital and 24/7 emergency care for their communities. They are located in nine of Arizona’s 15 counties.
[Copper Queen Community Hospital in Bisbee, AZ is a federally designated Critical Access Hospital. Photo: University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health]
“These hospitals play crucial roles in assuring access to quality health care, improving population health outcomes and contributing to a rural community’s jobs, economic health and development,” said Dr. Daniel Derksen, professor and chair of the community, environment & policy department, director of the Center for Rural Health and AzSHIP principal investigator. “The Center for Rural Health is eager to continue this important work in these communities.”
Funding allows the AzSHIP program to invest in three key areas:
AzSHIP tools and training include quality data collection training, Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) Survey training, pharmacy services, disease registry usage training, telemedicine mobile health equipment and revenue cycle management training and implementation.
“Ensuring rural hospitals have the tools and training they need will help transform our rural health-care system to provide quality health care in these communities,” said Dr. Jennifer Peters, AzCRH program manager.
The UA Center for Rural Health is housed within the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health and serves Arizona through its mission to improve the health and wellness of rural populations. In addition to its Small Rural Hospital Improvement Program (AzSHIP), the Center houses the Arizona State Office of Rural Health (AzSORH) program, Rural Hospital Flexibility Program (AzFlex), the AzCRH Navigator Consortium, and the Western Region Public Health Training Center.