Taking rural health care into the future

June 16, 2016

Since becoming a critical access hospital in 2003, Providence Mount Carmel Hospital in Colville has been caring for the residents in the rural communities of Stevens County, upper portions of Pend Oreille County and portions of Ferry County. This spring, it was named one of the top 20 critical access hospitals in the country by the National Rural Health Association.

The award signifies the hospital’s success in overall performance based on a composite rating from nine indices of strength: inpatient market share, outpatient market share, population risk, cost, charge, quality, outcomes, patient perspectives and financial stability.

The hospital has come a long way in the last 13 years, growing to meet the needs of its community. Many patients drive between 30 and 90 minutes to come to the hospital.

However, workforce shortage continues to be a major focus and challenge for the area, though like many critical access hospitals, those who work there gain a diverse array of experience, allowing a provider to gain experience that is more comprehensive than focused on one particular aspect of care. The hospital has students from nursing, pharmacy, laboratory, imaging and physical therapy throughout the year. The Rural Track Residency Program started in 1986 in Colville, and was the first of its kind in the nation. Nine out of the 27 residents who have gone through the program have decided to stay, meaning that more than 50 percent of its family practice physicians and 30 percent of its medical staff are rural track graduates.

To help relieve the aging family practice providers from doing rounds and being on call for the hospital after clinic hours, it launched a hospitalist program in May 2012. Also, a telestroke robot was placed in the emergency department to better serve stroke patients by having live connectivity with Spokane specialists, as patients are stabilized at the hospital before being transferred to a hospital in the city, saving time and ultimately lives.

Over the years, the hospital has also received many other accolades, including being named one of the country’s top 100 critical access hospitals by i-Vantage Health Analytics in 2012, 2013 and 2014. In 2014, it received the Healthgrades 2014 Outstanding Patient Experience award. It also a silver-level Washington Breastfeeding Friendly hospital.

Small but mighty hospitals like Providence Mount Carmel are a great example of the importance of rural health care for our communities, the unique opportunities critical access hospitals have and the innovative approaches that help overcome challenges in rural communities. Congratulations Providence Mount Carmel Hospital on this achievement! (Tim Pfarr)


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