Report shows rural Wisconsin hospitals rank high

Ranking based on outcomes, communication

A recent federal report ranks the health care at Wisconsin’s rural hospitals as among the best available.

The report comes from the Federal Health Resources and Services Administration.

The reports said the 58 rural critical access hospitals in Wisconsin, or hospitals with 25 beds or less, are the best in the nation.

One local hospital said that ranking comes from a number of factors.

Dr. Mark Tumerman is a family physician at the Mayo Clinic Health System Hospital in Sparta.

“(We are here) In the middle of the night, in the mornings, any time of the day, regardless of the type of problem, we don’t have that specialist right at our elbow.”

The federal report that highlights these hospitals as the best in the nation looks at factors such as patient outcomes, but also how medical staff communicates.

“When a patient comes to a small hospital, into the emergency department, and then needs to be transferred to a larger hospital, there’s certain information that needs to be transferred, and it needs to be transferred in a timely matter,” said Kelly Court, chief quality officer for the Wisconsin Hospital Association.

“We know a lot of errors occur in medicine when there’s barriers to safe communication,” Tumerman said.

Unlike rural hospitals across the nation, their Wisconsin counterparts are faring better when it comes to financial stability.

“In Wisconsin — even our rural hospitals — they’re run very well from a business perspective,” Court said.

“Part of our opportunity is to reduce our cost structure by trying to reduce our unit costs. In doing so, we have the advantage of the Mayo Clinic Health System to help us do some of that work,” said Kim Hawthorne, administrator for the Mayo Clinic Health System in Sparta.

Rural hospitals face another challenge: recruiting staff to work in these locations.

Doctors said in order to keep their ranking high, they need to find the right people to work in a rural environment.

“What it comes down to is looking for that family physician or nurse practitioner who is looking to practice in the community,” Tumerman said. “If you’re one of 100 physicians vs. one of five physicians, it’s a whole different feeling.”

In this federal study, Minnesota is ranked fourth.