The 21st Century Rural Hospital: A Chart Book


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.

North Carolina Rural Health Research and Policy Analysis Center
Victoria Freeman, Kristie Thompson, H. Ann Howard, Randy Randolph, Mark Holmes