Motient’s Richard Watson talks about helping rural hospitals stay afloat

More than 130 rural hospitals have closed since 2010. Watson, the co-founder of health tech company Motient, spoke with the Chief Health Officer about supporting rural hospitals.

Rural hospitals have been fighting for their survival for years, and Richard Watson says the situation is becoming even more troubling.

A physician, Watson spent years in rural emergency medicine in Kansas and Alaska. He is also co-founder of Motient, a health technology company that works with hospitals and health systems on patient transfers.

“We are looking at an untenable situation from a rural perspective,” Watson said. health director in a recent interview.

Since 2010, 138 rural hospitals have closed, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Analysts say hundreds more hospitals are at legitimate risk of bankruptcy.

Watson spoke with health director on the rural hospital landscape and the need to reorganize the financing of rural hospitals. He also explained how his company works with rural hospitals to get more information about their patients.

In many hospitals, more than half of the patients they treat are covered by Medicare or Medicaid. These reimbursements are not enough to support rural hospitals, he said.

“Health care has to make decisions because we’re at a fragile point,” Watson said. “It’s very fragile at the moment. Hospitals are aware that they are at the limit.”

Despite their funding problems in rural hospitals, “we still have a number of people we need to take care of.”

President Biden’s administration has proposed a new mechanism to help rural hospitals. CMS plans to create a new provider designation called “Rural Emergency Hospitals”. It will enable small rural hospitals to provide access to emergency and outpatient services, CMS said. Watson said he supported the idea.

“I think there’s a lot of good thinking that went into that,” Watson said.

Congressional lawmakers are also pushing for a bill to extend the duration of two key programs providing about $600 million a year to rural hospitals.

U.S. Representatives Carol Miller, a Democrat from West Virginia, and Terri Sewell, a Democrat from Alabama, sponsored the Rural Community Hospital Assistance Act (ARCH). The invoice Extend health insurance programs designed to help small rural hospitals for another five years. Funding for these programs expires at the end of September. A similar bill in the Senate would extend the programs permanently.

Ultimately, funding for rural hospitals needs to be revamped, Watson.

“If they were to recognize a critical level of health care that needs to be present, and we supplement based on that, that changes the sentiment of rural hospitals,” Watson said.

Watson’s company, Motient, has been heavily involved in helping rural hospitals meet the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Motient has partnered with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to track transfers between hospitals. Kansas hospitals, as well as state prisons, use Motient’s “Mission Control” platform to organize data. The platform also allows hospitals to gain valuable data on the patient transport process.

Thanks to the platform, hospitals did not have to spend time on the phone to find available beds. They were able to use Motient’s to find available hospitals and arrange transportation.

“We can take on the burden of fixing the transportation system while we do the logistics work,” Watson said.

Ashley Goss, assistant secretary of the Kansas Department of Health, said in a statement last December, “Motient’s assistance has been invaluable during the pandemic, and its 24/7 communications team, has helped our communities overcome the hospital capacity crisis.

Motient also provides rural hospitals with valuable data that could help them provide better patient care, Watson said.

“Motient’s job is to help them understand that you’re moving 20 to 30 people to the emergency department,” Watson said. “They have a chance to capture some of that.”

Patients who are not critically ill could be candidates for treatment in their hometown, rather than transferred to a facility far from family and loved ones, Watson said.

Using data from Motient, hospitals can learn more about the patients who pass through their hospitals and develop new services. For example, if a hospital sees an increase in the number of patients with diabetes, the organization might consider developing a telehealth or remote patient monitoring program to help patients manage the disease.

This could avoid costly hospital stays for patient and provider

“Not only is it more profitable, but it gives sustainability to these local facilities,” Watson said. “Know what comes in and goes out of your hospitals. Use data to monetize your system.

To date, approximately 140 facilities are using Motient’s Mission Control solution. Most of Motient’s partners are in Kansas, but the company also works with facilities in Nebraska, Missouri and Louisiana.

Rural hospitals need all the help they can get.

More than 500 rural hospitals are at immediate risk of closure due to economic hardship, Center for Healthcare Quality and Payment Reform reported. An additional 300 rural hospitals face a high risk of closure because they have low financial reserves or are highly dependent on government funding and revenue sources beyond patient volume.

Watson, who has spent most of his clinical career serving patients in towns with fewer than 15,000 people, said the government should provide more incentives for doctors to practice in rural areas.

The Biden administration is leading $52 million from the US bailout train rural health care providers. Watson said spending more money on training young doctors, with an obligation to work in rural hospitals for a period of time, would improve health care in rural areas.

“It creates a flow of new talent into rural areas,” Watson said. Although many of these providers only practice in rural areas for a few years, Watson said, “it gives these communities a vibrant health scene.”

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