In 2019, northwest Kansas-based Decatur Well being was staring into the potential for shutting its doorways.
“It acquired actually unhealthy, the place we weren’t certain how we had been going to financially be capable to make it out via the month,” mentioned Chief Operations Officer Kristopher Mathews. “I believe we had been right down to double digits of money, like 10 days of money readily available.”
Like many small rural hospitals, it was financially struggling. Current research present round 75 rural hospitals in Kansas are working at a monetary loss and in peril of closing.
Determined, Mathews turned one of many first to look into a brand new mannequin developed by the Kansas Hospital Affiliation. It is conditions like his that spurred KHA in 2012 to start researching a brand new, extra sustainable approach of delivering companies in rural areas.
Final December, Congress took that mannequin and gave rural emergency hospitals, also referred to as main well being facilities, formal designation, making them obtainable for Medicare reimbursements in 2023.
Now, Kansas well being care leaders are starting to put the early groundwork for launching rural emergency hospitals. Final week, regional conversations with native stakeholders selling the mannequin started, whereas this week, advocates shall be pushing via laws giving REHs licensing designation beneath the state stage.
What does this mannequin do?
A main well being middle, to explain it merely, is a hybrid between a clinic and a hospital.
Like a traditional hospital, it is open 24/7 and gives emergency companies. However just like a clinic, there aren’t any in a single day stays and first care is obtainable.
“We’ve got eradicated that inpatient mattress or these in a single day stays. These actually aren’t being utilized in quite a few our communities at present,” mentioned Jennifer Findley, vice chairman of training and particular initiatives for KHA. “As a substitute, we’re changing it with a deal with main care and preventive care, actually placing our power round making folks extra wholesome, in order that they do not want these in a single day stays within the hospital.”
An enormous driver in prices for rural hospitals has been that rural populations have been turn out to be not solely extra uninsured and older, but additionally smaller.
“In rural America, having so few sufferers, you do not get a whole lot of alternatives to deliver money within the door,” mentioned Mathews.
In response to KHA, 37 hospitals have fewer than two sufferers any given day spending the evening within the facility.
Not having sufficient affected person quantity would possibly imply not having the ability to pay fastened prices on the subject of operating a hospital, from gear to utilities. Mathews in contrast it to rural faculties, with giant buildings but fewer college students, who would possibly discover it extra smart to ship them to different bigger faculties.
So by eliminating inpatient companies, the fastened prices supporting them are lowered and the remaining companies are simpler to maintain.
Extra importantly, a main well being middle displays a broader pattern of care turning into much less and fewer inpatient and extra outpatient (that means administered exterior a hospital).
“Most of the widespread procedures that we ship in our small rural hospitals at present don’t require an in a single day keep. Know-how has enabled us to do issues faster and simpler than it did 20, 30 years in the past,” mentioned Findley.
She used the instance of a cataract surgical procedure, a 10-minute process that was hours lengthy and would require a hospital keep. Due to this fact, many hospitals proper now have inpatient beds, of which many aren’t used.
What if a rural Kansan does want acute inpatient companies? The agricultural emergency hospital would switch that affected person to a extra full-service hospital, highlighting how essential transportation techniques shall be to this mannequin.
Underneath the foundations, solely essential entry hospitals and hospitals with not more than 50 beds can turn out to be an REH. Ninety-one hospitals in Kansas can be eligible.
Hospital funding and cash
The elimination of acute inpatient companies makes potential a extra sustainable funding mechanism from the federal government.
“The chance for the federal government goes to be decrease by not having that inpatient quantity there,” mentioned Mathews.
Underneath present reimbursement processes for essential entry hospitals, there’s an interim fee for each price for service. On the yr’s finish, every thing must be settled up, type of like “have you ever paid sufficient taxes in for the yr or not,” mentioned Mathews.
With the brand new mannequin, funding appears to be safer with a decided funds. In response to a briefing from the American Hospital Affiliation, REHs will obtain a hard and fast month-to-month fee plus an add-on for outpatient companies.
That may erase worries from rural hospitals having to fret about money circulation and whether or not there are sufficient sufferers; plus, salaries and different bills could possibly be paid on time, mentioned Mathews.
Nonetheless, most of the finer particulars of how rural emergency hospitals shall be funded are nonetheless unclear in the intervening time.
For communities taking a look at transitioning to a rural emergency hospital, potential grants and cash sources could also be taken benefit of to set it up. A Kansas Home invoice establishing the Rural Hospital Innovation Grant Program, for instance, might assist lay the groundwork.
Though unlikely to move anytime quickly, Medicaid growth additionally would not damage.
“We nonetheless consider that with expanded Medicaid, extra folks would have entry to protection, which in flip would assist the sort of hospital identical to it helps the present essential entry hospital,” mentioned Cindy Samuelson, spokeswoman for KHA. “The variety of uninsured in our rural areas is growing, so making obtainable to them protection is all the time useful to the scenario.”
The state hospital affiliation has maintained communication with Kansas lawmakers on this new mannequin because it first started researching it. The group would not assume legislators shall be towards it.
“We’ve got not seen a whole lot of pushback,” mentioned Findley. “I believe most folk perceive how vital it’s to protect entry to care in rural areas.”
The larger hurdle to beat shall be persuading common Kansans in the neighborhood to embrace a main well being middle mannequin.
For one, they don’t seem to be advocating each single hospital flip right into a rural emergency hospital, KHA emphasised. Additionally, the laws permits amenities to revert again to being a essential entry hospital if it would not work out.
“As you realize, change is horrifying and troublesome. And I believe this simply gives an additional layer of safety for folk, that it is OK to attempt one thing new,” mentioned Findley.
Even then, there’ll nonetheless be considerations. Mathews mentioned when his group engaged with this matter, the concept that there can be no inpatient companies scared folks. Some had been uncomfortable with the thought of their physician not having the ability to admit them to their hometown hospital. Some apprehensive about their insurance coverage not working with different close by hospitals they may must go to as an alternative.
“What we had been making an attempt to painting is that the federal government’s made it very troublesome to qualify somebody to satisfy that acute inpatient standing,” he mentioned. “Now not are the times the place we admit anyone at present after which we discharge them tomorrow. It’s a must to be … sick sufficient to be right here a minimum of two midnights. Us giving up an acute inpatient keep isn’t as detrimental because it as soon as was.”
As well as, there would nonetheless be a restricted type of inpatient care allowed beneath an REH mannequin with swing beds, wherein one can come into the hospital after a surgical procedure elsewhere to rehabilitate.
Greater than 75% of sufferers that use small, rural amenities would proceed to be served by rural emergency hospitals, in accordance with KHA analysis.
In brief, well being care is an advanced matter that requires in depth engagement and conversations with group members, many have mentioned. The hospital affiliation hopes that when the pandemic lifts, they will start taking their regional conversations about REHs from distant to in-person.
Mathews mentioned his hospital is sticking to a essential entry hospital mannequin for now. However he’ll stay open to transferring towards a rural emergency hospital mannequin if essential.
“If that is a foundation for our authorities to present us sustainability, then that’s one thing that’s far more vital to me than to hope and pray that we now have sufficient quantity yr over yr to outlive … and find yourself closing the doorways and shedding every thing,” he mentioned.