Blue Mountain Hospital (BMH), a Critical Access Hospital in Blanding, Utah, lies in the heart of San Juan County. The area is home to 15,000 residents and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, drawn to the remote beauty of Moab and Lake Powell.
As is the case for many rural hospitals, the majority of BMH’s physicians are focused in family-practice medicine. With providers spread too thin to take on high-acuity patients and the complex cases of the sickest patients, BMH routinely transferred patients to Salt Lake City, Utah, a five-hour drive, or Grand Junction, Colorado, about three hours away. Sending these patients to other hospitals meant losing admissions, a familiar refrain for rural hospitals nationwide, which exacerbated the hospital’s ongoing struggle with low volume. Patients, who typically prefer to stay local whenever possible, faced the added burden of expensive transfers and hours of travel time for their loved ones to visit and participate in care management.