October 7, 2023
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Importance of Rural Hospitals in Idaho

There is no question that rural hospitals are essential in Idaho. They provide vital services to our communities, and they are often the only healthcare option available in rural areas. But with so many challenges facing rural hospitals today, it can be tough to make a case for their importance.

When you think of Idaho, what comes to mind? The potato fields? The vast expanses of wilderness? Maybe the bustling metropolis of Boise? All these things are quintessentially Idaho, but there’s something else that’s just as important, the rural hospitals.

In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the critical reasons why Idaho’s rural hospitals are so important, and we’ll discuss some of the challenges they face. We hope this information will help show how important it is to support Idaho hospitals.

What is the role of rural hospitals in the community?

Rural hospitals play a significant role as primary care facilities for members living in these communities and provide alternative sources of health care that may not be available to some people due to financial, geographical, and cultural barriers.

The Importance of Rural Hospital in Idaho

Rural hospitals are often the only healthcare option in rural areas of any state. In Idaho, 70% of our population lives in rural counties, with most of those people living in areas where there is no other access to medical care. These rural residents rely on their local hospitals for a variety of different services and treatments:

Maternity care

Many hospitals in Idaho provide primary maternity care to expecting mothers. In rural areas, these hospitals may be the only option for women looking to have a natural birth without their local Hospital; expectant mothers in these areas would have to travel long distances away from home to give birth – a prospect that can be expensive and stressful.

Emergency care

Many rural citizens live in areas where they would have to drive long distances to access a hospital in an emergency. If they were faced with this situation, the survival rates of whatever injuries or illnesses they had would drop dramatically.

This is why all parts of Idaho must have adequate access to medical care in hospitals.

Laboratory tests and studies

They are available in most rural hospitals in Idaho. These tests and studies can include ultrasounds, mammograms, blood work, and other types of testing, making it more sufficient to the level of healthcare in the medical field and the community.


80% of hospitals offer major and minor surgery, either inpatient or outpatient. It’s essential to the community because if it’s accessible to the treatment of injury or illness, they do not have any other convenient alternative rather than Hospital.

Nursing care

Rural hospitals offer services of professional nurses, which can be very helpful for older adults, people having disabilities or chronic conditions, patients requiring long-term hospitalization, mothers of newborn babies, and seniors who need nursing care.

Rural Hospital challenges in Idaho

Over the past few years, many rural hospitals across Idaho have faced difficult circumstances or even closed their doors permanently. This is because they are up against some significant challenges to stay open and continue fulfilling their roles as vital parts of the healthcare system in Idaho.

Rural Hospitals Face Many Challenges such as:

Financial Challenges

Rural hospitals face many financial struggles, and the number one challenge to rural hospitals is the need for increased reimbursement rates.

Healthcare reform

Many of Idaho’s rural hospitals serve a large population of Medicare patients while at the same time facing cuts in Medicare reimbursements. This puts them in a challenging position – whether they can afford to continue providing care in their rural Hospital.

Lack of Medicaid expansion

In Idaho, roughly 75% of the population lives in a rural area. Many people living in these areas rely on Medicaid for medical services – but with so many citizens being excluded from Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, many of our most vulnerable citizens have been left without access to medical services.

Financial assistance

Some rural hospitals in Idaho are not-for-profit, receiving federal funding for community health needs; others are owned by private investors who seek to profit.

Unfortunately, these investments typically leave the Hospital with less money to put towards staffing or other costs related to running the facility.

Will it impact the community when the number of hospitals increases?

The community will get the best health care services for citizens and get more attention on the health issues.

It’s good for the local economy because of more employment opportunities around areas where hospitals are.

Most importantly, our community members will get emergency medical services when needed.

There will be no long drive to access the hospital care.

Health care access Challenges of communities living in rural Idaho

There are few community challenges to access health care services in Idaho.

Limited Alternative Sources of Health Care

Even when a rural community has access to a hospital, there may not be enough alternative sources of health care. In these cases, people have no choice but to drive for hours to get the medical care they need.

Failure to Receive Other Forms of Care

People living in rural communities may not be able to access other types of care; as a result, they travel to different locations for the care they require and delay the diagnosis or treatment of their conditions.

Difficulty in Attaining Transportation to and from Medical Facilities

Rural areas often lack adequate transportation solutions for patients who need to get to medical facilities, including emergency services like ambulances. This is especially true if a community lacks an airport or other means of getting around quickly in times of need.

Will the future be better or worse for rural hospitals?

Rural hospitals’ future across the nation is a hot topic with various opinions and projections about what will happen over the next few decades. Many factors play into this discussion.

Compared to the past and current situations, it will be better because hospitals will have improved revenue, and they will be able to cover all their costs.

Rural hospitals face significant challenges today, but if these measures are taken, the future of rural hospitals in Idaho will make it easier for our communities to get healthy.

There will be no shortage of healthcare services in rural areas.


  • The future of rural hospitals in Idah can be a success story if health care reform is embraced. Medicaid expansion becomes a reality, and another necessary support is given to the struggling healthcare facilities.
  • Idaho’s hospitals will continue to face challenges. Still, with support from organizations like The Rural Health Association of Idaho, they will ensure the communities receive the best healthcare services they need.