Best Hospitals in Rural America

Best Hospitals in Rural America

Rural areas are sometimes underserved in important respects, ranging from equitable educational opportunities to broadband internet access — and certainly to healthcare. 

Medically Underserved Areas (MUAs) and Medically Underserved Populations (MUPs) are federal designations that indicate a lack of primary care services for an area or a population. They are based on four factors: ratio of population to primary care providers; infant mortality rate; percentage of population below the federal poverty level; and percentage of population over age 65. (These are the counties with the fewest hospitals.)

Fortunately, there are good hospitals in rural areas around the country, and 24/7 Tempo has compiled a list of the best of them, based on The Leapfrog Group’s Hospital Survey for 2020. Leapfrog uses national performance measures to evaluate individual hospitals on safety, quality, and efficiency. 

Our list shows that some states fare much better than others when it comes to rural hospitals. The standout is Maine, a state with a relatively small, low-density population. It has no fewer than five top hospitals. Michigan has three and Georgia two. Hawaii, which is as far as one can get from Maine and still be in the United States, has one. Many other states didn’t make the cut. (These are the 25 states with the worst health care systems.)

To identify the best rural hospitals in America, 24/7 Tempo reviewed the 2020 Hospital Survey published by The Leapfrog Group, which collects and analyzes data on health care safety and quality in America. The survey rates hospitals on such matters as preventing and responding to patient harm; medication safety; healthcare-associated infections; maternity care; pediatric care; critical care; complex adult and pediatric surgery; care for elective outpatient surgery patients; and elective outpatient surgery for adults and children. To be ranked among the best, a hospital needed to receive an A grade in the Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade, and to score among the highest institutions overall. Hospital locations were manually researched.

Source: Courtesy of Mercy Regional Medical Center

Centura Health – Mercy Regional Medical Center
> Location: Durango, Colorado

Mercy Regional, an 82-bed acute-care hospital, is southwestern Colorado’s largest and most technologically advanced medical facility. Mercy’s areas of specialty include orthopedic and spine surgery, cardiology, emergency and trauma care, and cancer care.

Source: Courtesy of AdventHealth Wauchula

AdventHealth Wauchula
> Location: Wauchula, Florida

AdventHealth Wauchula is a general medical and surgical facility in Hardee County, an agricultural area. It is also a teaching hospital. It received high marks across most categories.

Source: Courtesy of Fairview Park Hospital

Fairview Park Hospital
> Location: Dublin, Georgia

Fairview Park Hospital is a full-service emergency care facility specializing in diagnostic imaging and joint care, serving Laurens County and the surrounding communities. It scored very high by most measures, but had a weaker score for MRSA infection.

Source: Courtesy of Polk Medical Center

Floyd Polk Medical Center
> Location: Cedartown, Georgia

Floyd Polk Medical Center is a 25-bed, critical access hospital providing round-the-clock emergency and key medical services with support from the Floyd health care system.

Source: Photo by Sandra D. via Yelp

North Hawaii Community Hospital
> Location: Waimea, Hawaii

North Hawaii Community Hospital is a 35-bed rural acute care hospital located in Waimea, on the Big Island of Hawaii. Its mission is “To fulfill the intent of Queen Emma and King Kamehameha IV to provide in perpetuity quality health care services to improve the well-being of Native Hawaiians and all of the people of Hawaii.”

Source: Photo by Amy B. via Yelp

Our Lady of the Angels Hospital
> Location: Bogalusa, Louisiana

Our Lady of the Angels Hospital is an acute care hospital serving rural Washington Parish, in the interior southeast corner of the state. It achieved mainly top marks across the board, but had a weaker score for its rate of C-sections.

Source: Courtesy of LincolnHealth

> Location: Damariscotta, Maine

LincolnHealth in Damariscotta features a campus with a 25-bed community hospital; Lincoln Medical Partners, a multi-specialty physician practice; Cove’s Edge, a rehabilitation and long-term care facility; and Chase Point, an assisted living facility.

Source: Courtesy of Northern Light Blue Hill Hospital

Northern Light Blue Hill Hospital
> Location: Blue Hill, Maine

Northern Light Blue Hill Hospital is a 25-bed critical access hospital in Blue Hill, a peninsula on the Maine coast. It achieved top marks in almost all categories.

Source: Courtesy of Pen Bay Medical Center

Pen Bay Medical Center
> Location: Rockport, Maine

Pen Bay is the largest community hospital in Midcoast Maine. It achieved generally high scores across the board.

Source: Courtesy of Stephens Memorial Hospital (Maine)

Stephens Memorial Hospital
> Location: Norway, Maine

Stephens is a 25-bed critical access hospital in Norway, a town with a population of about 5,000. The hospital has been named one of the best rural hospitals in the nation several times in recent years.

Source: Courtesy of Waldo County General Hospital

Waldo County General Hospital
> Location: Belfast, Maine

Waldo County General Hospital operates as a family of services with Waldo County Medical Partners and Penobscot Shores Retirement Community. It is part of the Coastal Healthcare Alliance and the MaineHealth system.

Source: FatCamera / Getty Images

MidMichigan Medical Center – Gladwin
> Location: Gladwin, Michigan

MidMichigan Health is a non-profit health system affiliated with Michigan Medicine, the health care division of the University of Michigan. It covers a 23-county region with a half-dozen medical centers, including Gladwin.

Source: Courtesy of MidMichigan Health

MidMichigan Medical Center-Clare
> Location: Clare, Michigan

Like its Gladwin counterpart, above, MidMichigan Health’s Clare facility is one of a half-dozen medical centers affiliated with the University of Michigan’s health care division that serve a 23-county region.

Source: CarmenMurillo / iStock via Getty Images

ProMedica Bixby Hospital
> Location: Adrian, Michigan

ProMedica Bixby Hospital (now part of ProMedica Charles and Virginia Hickman Hospital) is a general medical and surgical facility. It boasts particular strengths in the specialty areas of pulmonary, gastrointestinal, and critical care.

Source: Courtesy of Great Plains Health

Great Plains Health
> Location: North Platte, Nebraska

Great Plains Health is a nonprofit regional referral center serving western Nebraska, northern Kansas, and northern Colorado. It achieved mostly top marks across the board, but had a weaker score for its rates of C-sections and episiotomies.

Source: Courtesy of FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital

FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital
> Location: Pinehurst, North Carolina

FirstHealth Moore is a 402-bed acute care, not-for-profit hospital that serves as the referral center for a 15-county region in the Carolinas. It is the flagship hospital for FirstHealth of the Carolinas, the region’s first comprehensive health care network.

Source: Courtesy of Mercy Hospital Ada

Mercy Hospital Ada
> Location: Ada, Oklahoma

Mercy Hospital Ada is a 156-bed acute-care facility serving Pontotoc County and the surrounding areas in south-central Oklahoma. It scored high by most measures, but had a weaker score for healthcare associated infections.

Source: Courtesy of Meadville Medical Center

Meadville Medical Center
> Location: Meadville, Pennsylvania

Meadville Medical Center is a community hospital located in northwestern Pennsylvania. It has a medical staff of more than 100 covering almost 40 medical/surgical specialties.

Source: iaea_imagebank / Flickr

Memorial Medical Center – San Augustine
> Location: San Augustine, Texas

Memorial is a general medical and surgical facility serving San Augustine and nearby communities.

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