Leading a hospital these days feels like a freefall skydive out of an airplane. I recently did my first jump with my youngest son to celebrate his 18th birthday. Wow, what a rush! That first step off the plane was certainly thrilling, but frankly, it's a piece of cake compared with running a hospital in 2011.

As I write this in mid-November, there are many questions yet to be answered:

  • What will be the recommendations of the congressional super-committee?
  • How do we use benchmarks and metrics to improve performance for rural hospitals?
  • How will cost-based reimbursement jibe with new payment incentives like value-based purchasing?
  • How do we go from being competitors to collaborators?
  • How does new technology help rural hospitals through telemedicine, electronic medical records and medical home models?
  • How can rural hospitals continue to be viable?
  • Will there be enough resources to maintain and improve facilities and equipment to meet the standards of quality we demand?

Every year, the Rural Health Care Leadership Conference, sponsored by the American Hospital Association and Health Forum, provides all of us who care about rural health care the opportunity to learn and network with others who are facing the same issues. Last year this premier rural-focused conference drew a record crowd with stellar participant evaluations. And, once again, this year's conference offers engaging speakers, topics and opportunities to learn from each other, building on the success of the past few years.

Rural hospital success requires strong and visionary leadership from the board, administrators and medical staff. This conference will help you gain practical advice and proactive ideas to better develop and lead your organization through increasingly complex and changing times.

I look forward to this conference every year and invite you to make plans to attend. Registration is now open for the 25th annual Rural Health Care Leadership Conference, Feb. 5-8, at Pointe Hilton Squaw Creek Resort in Phoenix. Join us this winter for engaging discussions, excellent presenters and many opportunities to network with colleagues in the beauty and warmth of the Arizona sun. I look forward to seeing you!

Todd C. Linden is president and CEO of Grinnell (Iowa) Regional Medical Center and member of the Health Forum board of directors. ?For more information, visit www.healthforum.com/rural