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Q&A: HIT's Critical Role in Rural Hospital of the Future

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media, August 9, 2011

In last week's column, I wrote about how small hospitals can prepare for future technology demands . This week I thought I'd share some comments about the future of rural organizations and health information technology from Tim Size, executive director of the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative (RWHC) in Sauk City, Wisconsin. RWHC has been pursuing its mission, to help keep quality care available, cost-effective, and accessible in rural communities through an array of shared services and advocacy agendas driven by a cooperative model, for 30 years. It has 35 member hospitals.

I interviewed Size for the HealthLeaders magazine cover story, The Hospital of the Future. As often happens with a source who's passionate about a particular topic, much of our long conversation didn't make it into the story. Here's some of what ended up on the cutting room floor:

Gienna Shaw: How can rural hospitals prepare for the future -- not just for the most pressing, immediate issues but to position themselves for long-term success?

Tim Size:The best advice I ever got was to “choose your parents carefully.” The second best, and only slightly more easily implemented, is to choose well the leaders you get to work with. I am fortunate to work in a state that is frequently ahead of the curve, solving tomorrow’s problems more often than reliving past complaints. Wisconsin has a business and non-profit culture that is particularly fertile for strategic alliances, both formal and informal.

GS: What are some of the ways rural hospitals in your state are doing that?

TS:  Rural Wisconsin hospitals on their own and through RWHC have been actively engaged in the development of many statewide initiatives, including most recently what will become our state’s health information and health insurance exchanges. RWHC is developing a rural portal with the Wisconsin Health Information Organization, a data repository, in order to access one of our country’s most comprehensive sources of health claims information.
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