High tech at ru­ral hos­pi­tals

Ru­ral hos­pi­tals hope of­fer­ing lat­est tech­nol­ogy keeps pa­tients close to home

Modern Healthcare - - FRONT PAGE - Paul Barr

Hos­pi­tals in ru­ral ar­eas are in­creas­ing their use of so­phis­ti­cated med­i­cal tech­nol­ogy when pos­si­ble to meet the needs of the com­mu­nity and to pre­vent pa­tients from go­ing out­side of the com­mu­nity for their care, ex­perts say.

Though ru­ral fa­cil­i­ties typ­i­cally are ham­pered by lower pa­tient vol­umes and more limited ac­cess to fund­ing, ad­vanced equip­ment is be­com­ing more com­monly found out­side of ur­ban ar­eas.

“The types of tech­nol­ogy be­ing adopted in ru­ral ar­eas are more com­plex than they have been,” says James Keller, vice pres­i­dent of health tech­nol­ogy eval­u­a­tion and safety for the ECRI In­sti­tute, a not-for-profit that eval­u­ates med­i­cal tech­nol­ogy. Ru­ral fa­cil­i­ties typ­i­cally don’t ride the first wave of im­ple­men­ta­tion of a new or up­dated tech- nol­ogy, but can be found buy­ing sec­ond gen­er­a­tions or later of the new­est tech­nolo­gies, he says.

Among the tech­nolo­gies in­creas­ingly found among ru­ral hos­pi­tals, in­clud­ing crit­i­calac­cess hos­pi­tals, are MRIS, CT scan­ners, dig­i­tal mam­mog­ra­phy equip­ment and even ro­botic surgery equip­ment.

“We’re see­ing da Vinci ro­bots be­ing bought all over the place,” says Jen­nifer My­ers, vice pres­i­dent of ECRI’S Se­lect Health Tech­nol­ogy Ser­vices, a decision sup­port tech­nol­ogy ser­vice, re­fer­ring to ro­botic sur­gi­cal sys­tems.

The equip­ment doesn’t come cheap. ECRI data from clients in­di­cate that a 1.5 Tesla MRI costs an av­er­age of $1.6 mil­lion, a 16-slice CT scan­ner costs $330,000 and dig­i­tal mam­mog­ra­phy equip­ment costs about $322,000.

And like their ur­ban coun­ter­parts, ru­ral hos­pi­tals face dif­fer­ent cir­cum­stances that lead them to come to a va­ri­ety of de­ci­sions re­gard­ing what tech­nol­ogy to in­vest in and what bells and whis­tles to in­clude—but a de­sire to re­main com­pet­i­tive is a re­cur­ring theme.

The fol­low­ing ru­ral hos­pi­tals re­cently com­pleted tech­nol­ogy ad­di­tions or up­grades, each tak­ing a dif­fer­ent tack for a dif­fer­ent set of rea­sons.

Leas­ing, buy­ing, ne­go­ti­at­ing

Ex­ec­u­tives at 25-bed Com­mu­nity Hospi­tal in Mc­cook, Neb., re­cently made some big tech­nol­ogy ac­qui­si­tions and say that strict ne­go­ti­at­ing and de­tailed fi­nan­cial de­ci­sion­mak­ing were im­por­tant to get­ting the deals done.

The not-for-profit crit­i­cal-ac­cess hospi­tal re­cently ac­quired an MRI unit, a CT scan­ner and dig­i­tal mam­mog­ra­phy equip­ment, ex­ec­u­tives say. Troy Bruntz, vice pres­i­dent of fi­nance and chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer for Com­mu­nity Hospi­tal, says their equip­ment de­ci­sion­mak­ing en­tails bal­anc­ing the com­muni-


Dr. Ben Pomer­antz is an in­ter­ven­tional ra­di­ol­o­gist who works at Kal­ispell (Mont.) Re­gional Med­i­cal Cen­ter. The hospi­tal has made sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ments in tech­nol­ogy to stay com­pet­i­tive.

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