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Executive Q&A with Dorothy Bybee, CNO Columbus Community Hospital

Rural hospitals are not immune to the challenges of the modern healthcare marketplace. Just like their urban counterparts, they face insurgent competition from non-traditional providers, and consumers with more exacting standards than they’ve ever had before. To thrive in this new environment of consumerism, small-town hospitals will have to adapt to meet these elevated expectations.

Columbus Community Hospital (CCH), of Columbus, Nebraska, is no exception. In this installment of Executive Q&A, Dorothy Bybee, CCH’s Chief Nursing Officer, addresses how her institution rises to the consumerist occasion.


  1. Why is patient loyalty so important in the current healthcare landscape?

Consumers have many choices in terms of healthcare options. Their loyalty to the community hospital is vital to our continued success and long-term existence. Loyalty to me means the patient chooses our hospital because they know they will receive exceptional care, and the hospital is part of the community in which they live.

  1. What are some of the forces that are making people look at consumer loyalty?

Consumer loyalty is a reality that we are concerned about. Healthcare choices, competition, and cost are all factors in the pursuit of loyalty.

  1. How is your organization preparing for and responding to Millennial consumers?

In order to respond, we must understand what Millennial consumers are thinking and what their feedback is post-care. Real-time is way to engage Millennials in feedback and a response from the organization. We must understand their perceptions of quality care and what drives their satisfaction with care.

  1. In what areas do you feel your organization—and your patients—could most benefit from innovation?

Practices cannot stay the same, and must continue to use technology and innovation to apply the evidence of research. Areas of innovation will continue to include patient safety within the hospital and post-discharge, monitoring capability in the home-health setting, swift feedback to care episodes, and more. I would also suggest that innovations must look at the work flow of the providers. Provider burnout is a real issue, and innovation must address how care is delivered and decrease the barriers to delivering care.

  1. What is one piece of advice you can share with health-system boards or leaders to get them started down a path to make their care delivery more customer-centric?

We must listen to our customers while applying the evidence of research. Ultimately the customer wants a good experience and to again find optimal health. Care must be streamlined with the customer and care providers in mind. If we have happy providers, we will have happy patients.


Dorothy pointed out one crucial advantage that small-town health organizations should leverage: their institutional standing in the community. More than organizations in large urban centers, rural health systems share in their community’s identity. Handled well, that can breed a sense of familiarity, trust, and even pride among residents—if, as Dorothy observed, the organization manages to meet their expectations.

What geographical challenges face your organization? How are you approaching them? Wherever your organization is, we’d like to hear about it. Just reach out to mcharko@nrchealth.com to set up a time to talk.