Understanding the Basics of Rural Emergency Hospital Designation: A Beginner’s Guide

Explore the Rural Emergency Hospital (REH) designation in response to rural hospital closures and healthcare disparities.

The Rural Emergency Hospital (REH) is a new Medicare provider designation for hospitals created to address the growing concern over rural hospital closures. This designation’s primary purpose is to promote and support rural community access to essential services and to decrease the likelihood of hospital closures.

Rural hospitals often have low patient volumes, yielding insufficient revenue, and consequently are at significant risk of closing. Over 150 rural hospitals have closed or converted since 2010, leaving their surrounding communities with reduced access to critical health services, negatively impacting employment and the local economy. 

For many rural hospitals, the REH designation is an alternative to closure that offers a possible path forward to advance health equity through access to care. There are many potential benefits to this designation. Rural Emergency Hospitals provide essential medical services to communities with limited access to healthcare facilities. Residents in remote areas can receive timely medical attention during emergencies, as well as a variety of outpatient services. In addition, REH staff understand their community’s specific healthcare needs, allowing them to provide personalized and context-sensitive care.

The REH designation represents a shift in thinking about how healthcare is provided in rural areas, aiming to bridge the gap in healthcare disparities between well-served urban and underserved rural communities. 

Janice Walters
Executive Director
Janice has been leading the work of the RHRC since its inception. She has a background in health finance and is a highly rated rural health expert with over 20 years of relevant leadership experience.