Nationwide, more than 100 rural hospitals have closed since 2010, and in each instance a community struggles to survive in its own way. In Fort Scott, home to 7,800, the loss of its 132-year-old hospital opened by nuns in the 19th century has wrought profound social, emotional and medical consequences. Kaiser Health News and NPR are following Fort Scott for a year to explore deeper national questions about whether small communities need a traditional hospital at all. If not, what would take its place?

A delay in emergency care can make the difference between life and death. Seconds can be crucial when it comes to surviving a heart attack, a stroke, an anaphylactic allergic reaction or a complicated birth.

Though air ambulances can transport patients quickly, the dispatch system is not coordinated in many states and regions across the country. And many air ambulance companies do not participate in insurance networks, which leads to bills of tens of thousands of dollars.