December 20, 2017

Becky Carter: Rural Healthcare and the Hospital’s Future

By Becky Carter
President/CNO, Blue Ridge Regional Hospital

I am so pleased to launch this monthly column to provide regular updates on Blue Ridge Regional Hospital! In these columns, I’ll share our plans and initiatives, and address the questions and concerns I hear from community members. As we enter this season of gratitude and celebration, I want to express my appreciation for our community’s efforts in shaping our services and provide information on how our local hospital is strengthened by membership in the Mission Health system.

According to the National Rural Health Association (NRHA), more than 700 rural hospitals are at risk of closing, and one rural hospital closes each and every month. Challenges that hospitals like Blue Ridge Regional Hospital face include: difficulty in recruiting and retaining physicians and other caregivers; the worsening of chronic health problems that are created by socioeconomic disparities in rural areas; and less overall access to care due to a variety of obstacles, including the likelihood that patients are uninsured and or have transportation issues.

The American Hospital Association’s Board of Trustees published a summary of these challenges in their report entitled Ensuring Access in Vulnerable Communities. This report also discussed the most important services rural hospitals can provide, like emergency services, primary care, behavioral healthcare (mental health services), and patient transport services, such as ambulances and medical airlift helicopters like MAMA. Being part of a larger system is essential to our survival. For example, beyond ensuring our survival, Mission Health provides important access to healthcare and specialized skills as needs arise in our community. Not only are we able to provide dependable emergency/urgent care services (24/7/365) and other services that match our community’s needs, but that care is made even better with exciting new treatment options.

Today, clinical experts at Mission Hospital provide support for the care delivered locally through remote monitoring, teleservices and more. Teleservices is an exciting area of care where rural patients and their doctors can communicate with experts at Mission Hospital through video technology. This technology allows rural patients to have the same access to excellent highly specialized care as patients in larger cities. Additionally, our membership allows us to obtain and enjoy system-wide efficiencies that help ensure access to services, both in the community and at Mission Hospital.

Our community’s utilization of Blue Ridge Regional Hospital, as well as the incredible generosity of our community members, allows us to plan for a future that includes attracting excellent physicians and nurses who want to be part of this community. This financial support means that urgent needs we identify, like a new MRI machine and emergency power generators, will be met. Support from Mission Health allows Blue Ridge Regional Hospital to offer state-of-the-art medical technology and equipment, significant clinical expertise and comfortable and appropriate facilities.

Thanks to community support and Mission Health’s continuing investment, Blue Ridge Regional Hospital is in a secure position. As we go forward, carefully considered growth will be essential to a long and bright future for Blue Ridge Regional Hospital, which will always include compassionate and accessible care for our community.

You can review the full report from the American Hospital Association here.