Applications are now open for the 2021-2022 cohort of the Vulnerable Rural Hospital Assistance Program (VRHAP). The Center for Optimizing Rural Health (CORH) works with up to 30 hospitals per year through the year-long VRHAP program. Selected hospitals receive free technical assistance – guidance, resources, and recommendations – from a team of rural hospital experts, interactive sessions with peer hospitals, and learning opportunities tailored to topics that can benefit their hospital.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the challenges rural hospitals face, so each VRHAP hospital is assigned a dedicated CORH manager who becomes familiar with its unique situation. This manager taps into the full expertise of their CORH colleagues and acts as a sounding board for hospital leadership. They provide remote technical assistance, connections to experts, promising best practices, and tailored guidance via regular check-ins and phone calls. The work between the CORH manager and the hospitals is a partnership, so hospitals take an active role in identifying priorities and implementing action plans. The CORH team requests that hospitals participate in the facilitated peer-to-peer mentoring (ECHO) sessions, webinars, and course offerings as often as their schedules permit.

VRHAP hospitals also have exclusive access to a suite of educational and capacity-building resources. One program is Project ECHO, or the Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes, which connects health care providers and professionals in rural, isolated communities with specialized clinical and operational expertise from across the country. Other resources include the DASH financial benchmarking tool. CORH provides Tier 1 and Tier 2 hospitals a financial analysis as well as courses in board education, recruitment for retention, and marketing.

The handful of hospitals selected for Tier I support start with a site visit from the CORH team. During this visit, CORH engages hospital leadership in a detailed discussion about the opportunities and challenges the institution is facing, holds community meetings and/or engagement forums, and takes stock of the hospital operations. Following the meeting, the CORH team compiles a detailed site visit summary outlining initial potential areas for improvement and next steps. This becomes the work plan for the year ahead.

One VRHAP participant said: β€œThe CORH team has been wonderful! I am so thankful for the information the CORH has provided our organization with. We owe everything to the CORH; this year was our first profitable year in five years.” To learn more about the application for the VRHAP program as well as program features, click here.