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Rural Hospitals and Rural Health Challenges: An Analysis of Recent National Health Rankings and Hospital Data

H. Daniel Xu and Tiankai Wang
JHHSA, Vol. 44 No. 2, 162-178 (2021)

Rural hospitals play a critical role in providing acute care and other essential medical services to rural populations. However, they are increasingly unable to meet the needs for health services in rural communities. This paper utilizes the data from the recent County Health Rankings and Definitive Healthcare to identify the health care challenges in rural counties and evaluate the operating and financial condition of rural hospitals in the context of the health care needs in rural areas and in comparison with urban hospitals. Our data analysis finds that while there are major health challenges and increased needs for hospital service in rural areas, the operating and financial performance of rural hospitals has been worsening in key aspects. We argue that continued policy support as well as health system innovations will be critically important to address the health care needs of rural America.

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