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What steps do you take to create a rural health network?

The creation of a rural health network is a multi-step process.  Rural health networks are formed when providers and/or others from health care delivery organizations recognize the advantages of collaboration and cooperation for their individual organization.  These interested individuals usually become the leadership team during the initial phases of health network development.

Once the leadership team is identified, the next step in creating a rural health network involves developing a mission for the collaboration, such as reducing fragmentation of health services in the community, improving access to health services, eliminating unnecessary services, and/or supporting clinical and administrative services.  After determining the mission for the network, the legal status of the organization, must be selected.  The governance structure, including the roles and responsibilities of the leadership, network staff, and network members should also be considered.  In addition, a membership plan must be devised that provides the framework for how organizations can join the network.  Prior knowledge regarding potential network partners can heavily influence initial network formation and should be considered during the network development phase.  A budget and a financial plan must also be considered for how capital, risks, and profits will be allocated. 

Once these initial structural characteristics for the network have been determined, the leadership can then consider what shared activities will be the focal point of the network membership.  The success of a network depends on how accurately its leadership has determined the right activity mix for the membership.

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