Rural hospitals are community strongholds, serving as the key point of care for nearly 20% of Americans. Beyond providing healing and hope, rural hospitals nationwide are pillars of their local economies, creating essential jobs that support families and community vitality.

Unfortunately, many rural hospitals have faced persistent and emergent challenges in recent years. An alarming number have closed due to issues such as low-patient volume, a shortage of health care professionals, and disruptive shifts in local demographics and the economy. The timing is especially dismaying in the face of rising health challenges such as the opioid epidemic. 

Still, the challenges confronting our vital rural hospitals are surmountable with unified commitment among stakeholders. The AHA continues to push for a robust agenda that highlights supporting new payment and delivery models; ensuring fair and adequate reimbursement; supporting regulatory relief; enhancing telehealth; bolstering the workforce; and reining in drug prices. 

This week’s AHA Rural Health Care Leadership Conference presents a broad overview of rural health care issues — and will showcase innovative strategies and policy recommendations that can have major, positive effects in rural communities. 

At the same time, the AHA is expanding its resources to help link care providers to sources of external and grant funding that are critical to many rural hospitals. The AHA also has created the Future of Rural Health Care Task Force to provide strategic thought leadership on the future delivery and financing of rural health care that ensures access to care for millions of Americans who live, work and raise their families in rural areas.

The strength of rural health care is critical to the fabric of American health care. And it is our mission to safeguard it, improve it, expand it, and advance it for future generations.
 

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