Healthc (Amst). 2021 Feb 2;9(2):100508. doi: 10.1016/j.hjdsi.2020.100508. Online ahead of print.
Research and media reports about coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) have largely focused on urban areas due to their high caseloads. However, the COVID-19 pandemic presents distinct and under-recognized challenges to rural areas. This report describes the challenges faced by Bassett Healthcare Network (BHN), a health network in rural upstate New York, and the strategies BHN devised in response. The response to COVID-19 at BHN focused on 4 strategies: (1) Expansion of intensive-care capacity. (2) Redeployment and retraining of workforce. (3) Provision of COVID-19 information, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) viral testing, and appropriate follow-up for a geographically dispersed population. (4) Coordination of the response to the pandemic across a large, diverse organization. Rural health systems and hospitals can take steps to address the specific challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic in their communities. We believe that the strategies BHN employed to adapt to COVID-19 may be useful to other rural health systems. More research is needed to determine which strategies have been most effective in responding to the pandemic in other rural settings.