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J Rural Health. 1991 Fall;7(5):560-74.

The WAMI Rural Hospital Project. Part 6: Overview and conclusions.

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Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA.


The Rural Hospital Project (RHP) appeared to make a meaningful difference in the six Northwest rural communities that participated in this integrated community development and strategic planning effort. Although the methodological approach used in the evaluation precludes us from attributing observed changes in outcomes solely to the project interventions themselves, several elements of the process appear to be useful in stabilizing or expanding local health care systems. These include: (1) the involvement of outside organizations in fostering community change, (2) a high degree of community commitment and investment in all stages of the process, (3) comprehensive identification of problems in the health care system by outside consultants, (4) the use of periodic meetings of communities confronting similar issues, (5) identification and development of local leadership, (6) enhancing teamwork among local health care providers, and (7) the development of conflict-resolution mechanisms within health care organizations. Future attempts to use this strategy to strengthen rural health care systems can be enhanced by broadening the range of participation in health services planning, enlisting involvement of medical staff throughout the strategic planning cycle, addressing the issue of physician recruitment, and clarifying responsibility for implementation of community plans. Rural communities will predictably need to identify and resolve a set of core issues. To the extent that external organizations such as medical schools can strengthen the ability of rural health professionals and community leaders to identify and address these issues, the quality and viability of rural health care systems will be enhanced.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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