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Beyond patient care: a qualitative study of rural hospitals' role in improving community health.

Nataliansyah MM, Zhu X, Vaughn T, Mueller K. Beyond patient care: a qualitative study of rural hospitals' role in improving community health. BMJ open. 2022 Mar 16; 12(3):e057450.

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OBJECTIVES: Rural population face more health disadvantages than those living in urban and suburban areas. In rural communities, hospitals are frequently the primary organisation with the resources and capabilities to address health issues. This characteristic highlights their potential to be a partner and leader for community health initiatives. This study aims to understand rural hospitals' motivations to engage in community health improvement efforts and examine their strategies to address community health issues. DESIGN: Eleven semistructured interviews were conducted with key leaders from four rural hospitals in a US Midwestern state. On-site and telephone interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed. The combination of inductive and deductive qualitative analysis was applied to identify common themes and categories. SETTINGS: Participating hospitals are located in US rural counties that have demonstrated progress in creating healthier communities. RESULTS: Three types of motivation drive rural hospitals' community health improvement efforts: internal values, economic conditions and social responsibilities. Three categories of strategies to address community health issues were identified: building capacity, building relationships and building programmes. CONCLUSIONS: Despite the challenges, rural hospitals can successfully conduct community-oriented programmes. The finds extend the literature on how rural hospitals may strategise to improve rural health by engaging their communities and conduct activities beyond patient care.

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