How helping patients get good care at home helps rural hospitals survive

By Blake Farmer
Nashville Public Radio / EMS1

LifePoint Health is launching a community paramedicine program to help people near the end of life.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Rural hospitals close when they don’t have enough paying patients to care for, but they’re also dinged when the same patients show up over and over again. That puts outlying medical facilities in the precarious position of needing to avoid repeat customers.

Charlotte Potts is the type of patient some hospitals try to avoid. She lives in Livingston, Tenn. — a town of 4,000, tucked between rolling hills of the Cumberland Plateau. “I’ve only had five heart attacks,” Potts said recently with a laugh. “I’ve had carotid artery surgery. Shall we go on? Just a few minor things.” She joked that she’s “a walking stent.”

The heart trouble has affected the way Potts deals with her health problems. She spends much of her day in a recliner in her apartment, tethered to a pulsing oxygen machine, and listening to the radio. Fortunately, her apartment sits within spitting distance of Livingston Regional Hospital — a 114-bed facility large enough to have a dedicated cardiac unit. But the hospital doesn’t want to see her every time her heart flutters.

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