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Top Three Strategies for Rural Health Care Success

Feb 11, 2016

Health care providers must navigate a myriad of issues in order to be successful in the future. Rural health care providers have some unique challenges (staffing, financial resources, clinical expertise, provider shortages, etc.) and also have a few advantages over their non-rural counterparts (access to special rural health care grant funding, cost-based reimbursement options, etc.). Although there are many strategies rural health leaders should engage, below are three that should be part of any rural health care provider’s roadmap to success.

1. Engaging Physicians
New health care payment transitions from volume to value require new clinical care models that consider populations of patients within a continuum of care. Physicians are fundamental to health care delivery and will increasingly assume additional significance and leadership roles as active designers and implementers of new clinical care models. Physician leaders must be able to envision and execute on new, unprecedented strategies that create strong futures for all stakeholders. This requires highly developed interpersonal skills, exceptional leadership skills and qualities, as well as the ability to engage others in the new strategies. Investing in a leadership transformation strategy that involves physicians is key to proactively engaging physicians in the transition to new payment and care models that will be most effective at delivering value-laden health care.

2. Understand the Data
Health care analytics is rapidly gaining attention in our world. A strong analytics program will yield greater ability to make informed decisions and predict patient needs in order to impact population health. Initial investments in developing and reporting quality of care measures across the health care delivery system are important to provide a conduit to collect and analyze this information to ensure that quality standards are met. This will also help rural providers focus on the quality of core service lines and assist with developing a plan to excel at what they do best. There are many tools and resources available to rural health care providers to assist in gathering, analyzing, and understanding data in order to make the most informed decisions. Proper identification and evaluation of these tools is necessary prior to purchase to ensure the data that is gathered can be utilized to make informed strategic decisions.

3. Mobilize Community Partnerships
Efforts in building strong community perception and support are even more critical in rural areas. Trust is at the foundation of community engagement. Community partnerships can span from simple to very complex systems of communication, leadership, and accountability.

Here are a few ideas to help manage this important effort:

First, it’s important to determine which partnerships may be most appropriate.

  • What needs will the partnership address?
  • What are the expected outcomes and benefits to the organization and community?

Next develop a detailed, creative list of all potential relationships (including community health resources, other providers (local and regional), potential retail outlets, senior centers, grocery stores, large employers, patient groups, etc.). Once the partnerships are created, develop mutually beneficial outcomes and measurements of success to add value to both groups. A strong community partnership program should create a mindset of well-being that looks at the overall patient’s health and well-being across a continuum of care.

There are many strategies rural health care providers need to consider in order to be successful in the future. We work with rural providers across the country and have access to many great resources to assist in this effort.

In addition to Wipfli’s rural health team, here are some other resources that may be beneficial:


Tina Nazier, MBA, CPC
Director, Strategic Alignment
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