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Rural Remote Health. 2007 Jul-Sep;7(3):766. Epub 2007 Jul 17.

Continuous and integrated health care services in rural areas. A literature study.

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  • 1Norwegian Centre for Telemedicine, Tromsoe, Norway.


This article presents the result of a literature review examining possible ways to improve healthcare services in rural areas. While there is abundant literature on making healthcare programs integrated, interdisciplinary and managed in order to reduce fragmentation and improve continuity and coordination of care, only some part of this relates to rural issues. An added challenge is the lack of a generally accepted international definition of rurality, which makes it difficult to generalise from one region to another, and to develop an evidence-based understanding of rural health care. In evaluating the literature it was found that the development of new forms of interaction is particularly relevant in rural regions - such as interdisciplinary and team-based work with flexibility of roles and responsibilities, delegation of tasks and cultural adjustments. In addition, programs such as integrated and managed care pathways, outreach programs , shared care and telemedicine were relevant initiatives. These may be associated with greater equity in access to care, and more coherent services with greater continuity, but they are not necessarily linked to reduced costs; they may, in some cases, entail additional expenses. Such endeavours are, to a large degree, dependent on a well-functioning primary healthcare system as a base.

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