Utah Rural Independent Hospital Network
- Need: To help ensure the viability of and improve quality at 9 rural, independent hospitals serving 11 Utah counties.
- Intervention: A network organization was created to allow member hospitals to communicate, network, and undertake projects together.
- Results: Members take advantage of cost savings, education, and networking opportunities through group projects and programs.
The Utah Rural Independent Hospital Network (doing business as "Rural 9") was established to improve the quality and viability of rural independent hospitals in Utah. The network helps identify and prioritize shared needs related to quality and financial stability, and then implement projects to address those needs. In addition, the network provides communication and networking opportunities, currently at the CEO, CFO, CNO, HR, BO/HIM and Quality Manager levels, to share common issues, solutions, and best practices.
The network includes all 9 independent, rural hospitals in the state, which serve the 7 counties in which they are located as well as 4 adjacent counties without hospitals. Eight of the network members are Critical Access Hospitals. The CEO of each hospital serves as a representative to the Network's board.
Non-member partners of the network include:
- Utah Office of Primary Care & Rural Health
- Utah Center for Rural Health
- Southern Utah AHEC
- Rural Health Association of Utah
Initial development and implementation of the Network was supported through a Rural Health Network Development Planning Grant from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. The network's work continues through member and partner support.
The Network's director is currently the Rural Hospital Improvement Director at the Utah Hospital Association and also assists with Utah's Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility Program (Flex) Coordinator responsibilities in the state. The FLEX Program helps support the network director position via contract with the Utah Hospital Association.
Network members work together on projects related to:
- Education, such as department manager training, board training, and revenue cycle and regulatory compliance education
- Purchased services, such as property insurance, workers compensation, supply and maintenance contracts, HCAHPS vendor services, regulatory compliance assessment/support, and mobile MRI coordination
- Quality improvement, such as reporting and quality improvement projects
The network collaborates with the following larger systems to offer these specific services to members:
- ICD-10 preparation (Steward Healthcare)
- Hands-on nurse training (University of Utah)
- Annual rural hospital conference (Intermountain Healthcare)
- Leadership development workshops (University of Utah)
Members take advantage of cost savings, education, and networking opportunities through group projects and programs, including:
- Common equipment maintenance and service vendor
- Legal services retainer with a law firm, which includes provision of legal education webinars for members
- Common broker on property insurance
- Human Resource, CNO, BO/HIM, and CFO groups meet regularly to network, collaborate, and share best practices
- Collaboration with the University of Utah, including rural nurse job shadowing and training, workshop provision, and more
- Department-level manager training
- Regular revenue cycle improvement and regulatory compliance webinars
- Compliance assessment and ongoing support
- Collaboration with the state's Flex Program
Some of the major accomplishments of the network to-date are:
- Creation of a legal entity, the Utah Rural Independent Hospital Network, Inc. It operates through a board, bylaws, a strategic plan, a sustainability plan and membership dues.
- Ongoing network sustainability:
- Members pay a monthly fee of $1,000.
- Project vendors share savings with network members.
- Collaboration with larger systems in the state provides high quality, low cost services.
In Utah, government-owned organizations are not allowed to engage in projects that have the potential to generate profit. Five of network's hospitals are city- or county-owned. The network had planned for certain initiatives, such as mobile MRI, to generate profit that could fund other network initiatives. The solution, found via consulting with a law firm, was for the network to be a Utah Cooperative Non-Profit Corporation.
Another challenge was the relatively small number of participating hospitals, as compared to networks in other states.
The network's participating hospitals have been in an independent mindset for many years. This, at times, makes it a challenge for them to contribute to the collective achievement for all participating hospitals when there is a not a significant gain for their individual hospital.
The biggest contributor to the success of the network has
been the commitment from partner organizations.
The members and partners involved have had long-standing
informal relationships that allow members to work
together to quickly accomplish their goals.
Another factor in the network's success are the commonalities among member hospitals:
- Similar geographic areas
- Sole providers
- Common missions, visions, and purposes
- Independently owned and operated
March 7, 2014
Date updated or reviewed
April 25, 2019
Suggested citation: Rural Health Information Hub, 2019. Utah Rural Independent Hospital Network [online]. Rural Health Information Hub. Available at: https://www.ruralhealthinfo.org/project-examples/745 [Accessed 25 October 2020]
Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.