Challenges confronting rural hospitals accentuated during COVID-19

J Biomed Res. 2020 Sep 21;34(6):397-409. doi: 10.7555/JBR.34.20200112.


The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 created a designation for critical access hospitals (CAHs) to sustain care for people living in rural communities who lacked access to care due to hospital closures over the preceding decade. Twenty-five years later, 1350 CAHs serve approximately 18% of the US population and a systematic policy evaluation has yet to be performed. This policy analysis serves to define challenges faced by CAHs through a literature review addressing the four major categories of payment, quality, access to capital, and workforce. Additionally, this analysis describes how current challenges to maintain sustainability of CAHs over time are accentuated by gaps in public health infrastructure and variability in individual health care plans exhibited during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Keywords: COVID-19; coronavirus; critical access hospitals; rural hospitals.