Affinity Groups


Register by January 15th to take full advantage of Affinity Group activities, which will begin later in January.


Affinity groups provide a means through which conference attendees can connect for networking, deeper issue exploration, success sharing, and problem solving. By engaging in virtual communities of rural leaders with common interests, participants will make lasting, valued contacts with their peers. Affinity groups will convene virtually once in January, at a special “Coffee and Conversation” session during the live conference, and one or more times post-conference. Discussions will be supplemented with the insights of special subject matter experts and shared resources and tools.

Conference participants are invited to join up to two affinity groups during the registration process.

Rural Behavioral Health: Challenges and Solutions

1st Meeting – Thursday, January 21, 2:00 - 3:00 pm CENTRAL

Barriers to behavioral health services exist across the country, but the magnitude and diversity of the barriers are exceptionally resilient in rural communities. This affinity group will provide a centralized space for affinity members to discuss challenges and opportunities related to delivering behavioral health services in rural settings. Join this group to identify effective ways to address the shortages of specialty BH providers, use community partnerships to improve access, and ways to reduce stigma and deaths of despair.

Governance Excellence

1st Meeting – Thursday, January 28, 2:00 - 3:30 pm CENTRAL

Whether you’re a board officer, a tenured board member or a newbie, or a CEO supporting a board, governance is challenged today more than ever with COVID-19, shrinking resources, CEO turnover and a litany of other issues. This affinity group is designed to pull board members together from across America to discuss common governance issues such as conducting effective executive sessions, recruiting new board members, supporting CEOs when physician discipline is necessary, and embracing new decision making models. Facilitated by two governance experts, this affinity group seeks to bring together board members and CEOs to share insights, best practices, and support for one another.

Resilience in Ongoing Crisis

1st Meeting – Thursday, January 28, 11:00 am - 12:00 pm CENTRAL

Health care teams are no strangers to crisis. As a profession, we run toward the danger to help those in need as a place of refuge, but how do we support our teams as we continue to adapt in a pandemic? Compounding the challenge is the very real financial impact COVID-19 has presented for hospitals, both in hard hit areas and those that prepared for a surge, but have not yet experienced it. If you too feel like an overstretched rubber band, or see the cracks appearing in your teams, join this group to share how you are coping and what you are doing to enhance resilience, empathy and compassion, explore the challenges that you face, and learn how we can support each other.

Pathways to Recovery

1st Meeting – Friday, January 29, 11:00 am - 12:00 pm CENTRAL

More than 133 rural hospital have closed in the last 10 years and another 453 rural hospitals across the nation are vulnerable to closure. Based on the most recent cost report data median days cash on hand ranged from a low of 21.3 days for rural Prospective Payment System (PPS) 26-50 bed hospitals to a high of 73.2 days for CAH prior to the onset of COVID-19 in the United States. Forty-eight percent of rural hospitals have negative operating margins, and the median number of days of cash on hand for all rural hospitals is less than 33. This affinity group will discuss new models of payment and delivery along the pathway to recovery.

Innovation and Digital Transformation

1st Meeting – Tuesday, January 26, 2:00 - 3:00 pm CENTRAL

Rural providers face unique challenges and opportunities when it comes to driving innovation. While resources may be limited for rural innovation teams, smaller, more nimble organizations make for great settings to spur and implement new ideas. The Innovation and Digital Transformation Affinity Group will focus on key issues that face rural providers in driving innovation and transforming the digital experience for their patients. While digital transformation may sound daunting, broken down into smaller components aided by proven innovation tools and approaches, strategies can yield results within months if not weeks. If you lead strategy or innovation or are charged with improving the digital experience, join this affinity group to learn and share best practices for building and sustaining an innovation culture that enables digital transformation.

Rural Community Health Investment and Improvement

1st Meeting – Wednesday, January 27, 2:00 - 3:00 pm CENTRAL

Hospitals and health systems that serve rural communities face unique challenges and opportunities to respond to community health needs and infrastructure. Community investment – including in the form of ‘anchor’ strategies around purchasing, hiring and employment, and placed-based investments in areas such as housing - are taking many shapes and forms. Join us to learn about current resources, share leading practices with colleagues, and make connections with peers in rural health care from across the country around investing in communities to drive greater equity.