Millions of Americans living in vulnerable rural and urban communities depend upon their hospital as an important, and often only, source of care. However, these communities and their hospitals face many challenges. As the hospital field engages in its most significant transformation to date, some communities may be at risk for losing access to health care services. It will be necessary for payers and health care providers to work together to develop strategies that support the preservation of health care services for all Americans.
Recognizing this, the American Hospital Association (AHA) Board of Trustees, in 2015, created a task force to address these challenges and examine ways in which hospitals can help ensure access to health care services in vulnerable communities. The task force considered a number of integrated, comprehensive strategies to reform health care delivery and payment. Their report sets forth a menu of options from which communities may select based on their unique needs, support structures and preferences. The ultimate goal is to provide vulnerable communities and the hospitals that serve them with the tools necessary to determine the essential services they should strive to maintain locally, and the delivery system options that will allow them to do so. While the task force’s focus was on vulnerable communities, these strategies may have broader applicability for all communities as hospitals redefine how they provide better, more integrated care.