Darrell’s Rural Rant

Our National Account Executive was on the road today returning from a Rural Hospital conference. We didn’t have a booth at this particular show so Todd spent the majority of his time going to the educational sessions along with the hospital personnel that were in attendance. I called him to catch up on anything that had happened at the show and to hopefully break up the 8 hour car ride.

His synopsis of the show was that the majority of the speakers were portending hard times coming to rural healthcare. The old time rural health advocates are leaving Congress and the new ones coming in don’t have a sensitivity to the uniqueness of rural healthcare, reimbursement is moving toward quality and away from volume, and it’s hard to recruit healthcare professionals to the markets where they are needed. And their solution – call your congressman and advocate for legislative change. Really?!, Really!?.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that Medicare, Medicaid and other government programs make up a significant chunk, if not the majority, of overall healthcare spending. I also understand that oftentimes the government looks at spending and programs in terms of averages not necessarily impact. As a result, if you aren’t advocating your position, your individual impact may be on the wrong side of the average. However, I think we get way too focused on worrying about the macro aspects of health care finance when the micro (individual patient) level is the only thing you really control and the only thing that really matters.

Healthcare is a business, just like any other. We often like to truss it up and couch it as a more noble enterprise than possibly it deserves, but I’m an accountant so what do I know about compassion. The point is, that Washington messes with reimbursement with some level of regularity, and you react to it once you know what it is. However, helping a patient heal mind, body and soul is timeless.

Irrespective of what Congress does (or more likely doesn’t do), the winners in healthcare will be those unique providers who can focus on healing, encouraging, advocating and motivating their patients to achieve the greatness of their potential. Those unique providers will have the patients and eventually, reimbursement will catch up.

It is amazing to me how frequently we allow ourselves to get boxed in to following the crowd when it is often headed in the wrong direction. With the increasing velocity of communication and the number of messages that are thrown at us across multiple mediums I guess there is some justification for just following along.

On the other hand, we are a unique company with 30 years of history in rural markets. I think that (a) Congress is always late; (b) quality has always been the focus of rural healthcare and (c) sanity and happiness are not exclusively found nor sought in urban markets.

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