Hospitals have changed over recent decades. Hospital
stays are shorter. Procedures once requiring
hospitalization are now done in an outpatient setting.
Hospitals have moved beyond providing mainly inpatient
and emergency department care. They have become
vertically integrated systems with “one-stop shopping”
for all of one's healthcare needs.
The transformation of hospitals has also occurred in
rural areas where the presence of a hospital with
traditional inpatient and emergency department services
may also ensure that other healthcare is available. Even
with a cursory scan of rural hospital websites, one can
see that rural hospitals offer a variety of services that
range from traditional inpatient medical, surgical and
obstetric care to advanced imaging, laboratory, and
rehabilitation services. Outpatient primary and specialty
care are available, and hospitals provide important
health promotion and wellness services for the community.
Hospitals vary, however, based on their resources and the
needs of the populations they serve. As is often said
about many things, “if you've seen one hospital, you've
seen one hospital.”
This Chart Book uses available data to present a broad
profile of the 21st century rural hospital and includes
such descriptors as: Where are they located? Whom do they
serve? What traditional hospital services do they
provide? How do they ensure outpatient services for their
community? What other community benefits do they provide
or enable for citizens in their area? How are they doing
financially? How are they supported by federal programs?
The pages of The 21st Century Rural Hospital: A Chart
Book are each designed as a pull-out document and
describe many aspects of today's rural hospital. Each
page includes charts comparing rural hospitals to each
other and to urban hospitals across different dimensions
such as levels of rurality, US Census region, and
hospital size. Important data points are emphasized and
an illustrative rural hospital is highlighted. Those who
are unfamiliar with today's rural hospital may be
surprised by many data points shown here; others may use
this document to research a particular data point.