Purpose: Rural hospitals are disproportionally affected by physician shortages and struggle to staff inpatient services. Telemedicine presents an opportunity to address staffing problems and bring the advantages of hospital medicine to rural areas. Methods: In this study we surveyed administrators from 34 rural and low complexity hospitals in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to evaluate staffing needs and perceptions of a potential telehospitalist service. Findings: Of the 25 respondent facilities (74% response rate), 96% reported vacancies that resulted in staffing difficulties within the last 3 years and 84% relied on intermittent providers to staff their inpatient services in the last year. Almost two-thirds of respondents thought that a telehospitalist service could help address their staffing needs and 72% were interested in participating in a pilot program. Conclusions: The results of this study corroborate staffing challenges in rural hospitals within VHA and support the use of alternative staffing models like a telehospitalist service to address intermittent and long-term staffing needs.
- rural health