Every day, rural hospitals in Washington State provide access to essential health care services. Without these important community resources, many may not have access to health care at all. These rural hospitals are also vital to the economies of their communities, providing family wage jobs and services that attract other businesses and visitors.
Rural hospitals are located in remote areas with low population densities, they serve more than 70% of the state’s area and 15% of the population. Rural hospitals are more than the traditional hospital model, they provide a community hub for local health care services and access to primary care and emergency services, and a bridge to specialized care outside the community.
Rural healthcare is not simply urban healthcare in miniature. Rural hospitals are uniquely positioned to provide patient centered care. Many are already trying new and innovative ways of providing their communities with efficient and convenient access to high quality health care across the care continuum.
Blanket policies in health care payment and regulation at the federal and state level have put rural health care systems in a tenuous situation where adapting to the change may limit access to health care for their communities. Some rural health care systems are in crisis. Federal health policy increasingly prioritizes population health and prevention, without a regulatory framework to promote these activities at the local level. Rural communities need support at state agencies and associations to transform to the care systems envisioned at the federal level. At the end of the day, it is critical to assure people living in rural communities still have access to essential services. The “New Blue H Report”, co-written by WSHA and the Department of Health, puts forth a clear proposal for how health care in rural communities could change to better meet the needs of each community while responding to the changing health care policy and market landscape.
Community Engagement Resources for Rural Hospitals
Our rural hospitals have a unique relationship with their communities- they are key conveners and anchors of the local health system. WSHA has developed and collected resources to help hospitals convene and lead community conversations and health improvement projects.
- WSHA’s Community Engagement Toolkit for Rural Hospitals
- AHA’s How to Have Community Conversations: A toolkit for advancing health in America
- Cause Communications Toolkit
- The Community Toolbox
Innovating to Provide Access
Hospitals across Washington State are innovating to meet the changing needs of their communities. We’re committed to sharing the stories of these organizations striving to find solutions to sustain health care access to rural Washington. A few of those stories are shared here. Please take the time to watch these videos and share your own organization’s story.
- Newport Hospital: Integrating Behavioral and Primary Care – Special thanks to the Cambia Foundation for funding this project and supporting access to mental health services!
- PMH Medical Center: Keeping Patients Healthy with Community Paramedics
- Mason General Hospital: Partnering to Achieve a Healthy Community
- Lincoln Hospital: Expanding Access through Virtual Medicine
- Summit Pacific Medical Center: Building for the Future