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Rural Healthcare Initiative

Unique social enterprise approach needed as rural hospitals face record closures, unprecedented pandemic stress

RALEIGH, NC, September 9, 2021 – A consortium of national healthcare consulting firms with a long history of serving rural healthcare providers today announced the launch of a collaborative organization built on the common mission of shoring up healthcare delivery for the 20 percent of Americans living in non-urbanized areas.

The Rural Healthcare Initiative (RHI) will offer a single point of contact where the leaders of struggling hospitals and health systems can tap into more than 150 years of combined experience in strategy and planning, physician alignment, practice management, facilities, operations, finance, law and regulation and communications and share experience and knowledge.

According to the Center for Healthcare Quality and Payment Reform, more than two in five rural hospitals could be facing closure, on top of the more than 130 that have closed in the past 10 years. “Rural hospitals don’t have the staff to keep on top of every industry trend, so they end up cobbling together an assortment of consultants who provide niche expertise,” said Dawn Carter, founder and senior partner at Chapel Hill, NC-based Ascendient, a top-ranked strategy and planning firm devoted to community-based healthcare providers. “Unfortunately, that siloed approach to consulting support is costly, slow and management-intensive – three things that a rural hospital can least afford in a moment when so many are at risk for near-term closure.”

To broaden its impact, RHI includes a 501(c)(6) nonprofit educational arm that will provide practical training and tools to rural healthcare leaders as a means to learn from and deploy best practices. Founding consultancies have committed a portion of their own resources to launch this nonprofit educational program. In addition to the 501(c)(6), the collaborative will offer consulting services aimed at delivering efficient, cost-effective management solutions.

“We started with the mission of strengthening rural healthcare providers and then asked ourselves how we could deliver on that mission with maximum reach and sustainability,” said Robert Wilson, Raleigh-based partner at national law firm Nelson Mullins. “By structuring RHI as a consulting collaborative with a nonprofit arm, we see the opportunity to provide a much more cost-effective solution for rural clients while creating a funding stream to advance our core aim of providing education and best practices for these healthcare organizations. It’s this approach that makes RHI unique, with our group the only one in healthcare consulting using the social enterprise model at this scale.”

Other founding members of the RHI collaborative are Charlotte, NC-based Criterion Healthcare, which offers facility development and financing consulting, and Richmond, VA-based Health Management Resources, which focuses on physician practice and network management services. The group also receives support from Nashville, TN-based strategic communications firm Jarrard Phillips Cate & Hancock.

About Rural Healthcare Initiative:

WIth a mission to secure the future of rural healthcare in the United States, RHI is a consulting collaborative formed by professionals at Ascendient Healthcare Advisors, Criterion Healthcare, Health Management Resources and Nelson Mullins, with support from Jarrard Phillips Cate & Hancock. Nonprofit educational programs are carried out under the auspices of a registered 501(c)(6) organization based in North Carolina. For more information, please contact RHI online or email