Attributes of turnaround rural hospitals: Case study findings and research opportunities

Asa B. Wilson


Background: Rural and Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) have a history of operating challenges and closure-conversion threats. The history is reviewed including the supportive public policy provisions and administrative tactics designed to maintain a community’s hospital as the hub and access point for health services. Limited research indicates that rural facilities are not strategic in their responses to challenges. A question emerges regarding the enduring nature of operating difficulties for these facilities, i.e., no understanding with explanatory value.
Objective: The author, as the CEO in six rural hospitals designated as turnaround facilities, used inductive participant-observer involvement to identify operating attributes characteristic of these organizations. An objective description of each facility is provided. While implementing a turnaround intervention, fifteen behaviors or outcomes were found to be consistent across all six entities. This information is used to posit factors associated with or accounting for identified performance weaknesses.
Conclusions: It is conceptualization that observed organizational behaviors can be explained as remnants of an agrarian ideology. Such a mindset is focused on preserving the status quo despite challenges that would require strategic positioning of the organization. In addition, emerging studies on community types indicates that follow-up research is needed that assesses the impact of community attributes on rural hospital performance. Also, this study shows that a theory of the rural hospital firm based on neo-classical economics has no explanatory value. Thus, a theory of the firm can be developed that includes behavioral economic principles.

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Journal of Hospital Administration

ISSN 1927-6990(Print)   ISSN 1927-7008(Online)

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