EHRs and RCM: Helping Rural Hospitals Achieve Profitability


Rural hospitals play a crucial role in providing healthcare to underserved populations. Unfortunately, these essential institutions face financial hurdles threatening their existence. With low patient census and the inability to maintain operational cash flows, rural facilities are increasingly struggling to stay open.

Revenue cycle management (RCM) offers an opportunity to improve the financial health of rural hospitals. As they seek better financial management, many are turning to electronic health records (EHRs) as a catalyst in kickstarting better revenue and overall financial stability. RCM and EHRs have a symbiotic relationship — one rural facilities must unlock to ensure healthy, continuous operation.

Revenue challenges for rural hospitals

For better or worse, hospitals are profit centers. They must generate profit to remain viable, which often involves overcoming obstacles in revenue generation. After all, revenue is the means to profit. Among the unique revenue challenges facing rural hospitals are:

  • Low patient census: Hospitals in rural areas have a limited patient population, which affects their revenue generation and contract negotiations with payers.
  • Staffing shortages and recruitment challenges: Attracting healthcare professionals is difficult in rural areas, leading to ongoing staffing shortages and recruitment difficulties.
  • Dependence on government reimbursements: Rural hospitals heavily rely on uncertain Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements, creating financial vulnerability.
  • High percentage of uninsured or underinsured patients: Uninsured or underinsured patients place a significant burden of uncompensated care on hospitals in smaller communities.
  • Limited access to capital and funding: Rural hospitals often struggle to access capital for expansions, upgrades, and new services.

Without a means to overcome these challenges, rural facilities face the prospect of closure. Each closure can result in underserved patient populations receiving delayed treatment, poorer health outcomes, and increased healthcare costs.

Using EHRs and RCM in tandem

RCM is a critical financial management mechanism for any healthcare facility but particularly for rural hospitals. This financial process focuses on revenue capture by examining the patient journey. Effective RCM is vital for the financial health of hospitals, as it streamlines revenue-related operations, optimizes reimbursement processes, and ensures accurate billing and timely collections.

EHRs support RCM in many ways — primarily in charge capture, verification, and communication. As rural providers centralize information in an EHR system, they can use it to help patients understand the services rendered and the cost of those services.

Moreover, EHRs can provide access to financial resources such as bill pay portals, payment plan information, and cost information. While RCM handles the revenue stream, EHRs can help manage patients and their responsibility as payers.

EHRs and RCM in rural hospitals

It’s essential for rural providers to adopt, deploy, and correlate EHR technology with their RCM efforts. The integration of EHRs with RCM systems has the power to improve claims management, accelerating the reimbursement process and reducing payment delays.

EHRs also provide valuable data analysis capabilities, allowing healthcare administrators to gain deeper insights into their hospital’s financial performance. By analyzing key metrics and trends, rural hospitals can make informed financial decisions, optimize revenue streams, and allocate resources more effectively.

Prioritizing revenue capture with EHRs

The integration of EHRs with RCM processes offers many benefits for rural facilities, including efficient billing and coding, optimized claims management, streamlined workflows, improved documentation accuracy, and enhanced patient care. Together, EHRs and RCM can help rural hospitals overcome their financial challenges, ensuring their doors remain open for the underserved populations who rely on their essential services.

Learn more about how EHRs can enhance RCM at