Rural hospitals face unique challenges

578a4e523fce0.imageRural hospitals experience unique challenges not faced by many of their metropolitan peers.

Locating and retaining specialists, keeping up with changes in medicine and technology, and offering continual staff training can be difficult for small hospitals that sometimes are located in remote areas. Yet, area rural hospitals continue to receive strong patient ratings, and new technology is making it easier for these institutions to offer a wider range of local patient care than ever before.

Residents in Juneau, Columbia and Sauk counties are served by five hospitals, including Sauk Prairie Hospital in Prairie du Sac, Mile Bluff Medical Center in Mauston, Reedsburg Area Medical Center, St. Clare in Baraboo, and Divine Savior in Portage.

The medical providers may be remote for some, but hardly going in reverse when adapting to changes in advancements in technology, competitive and marketing strategies, and even national politics.

Those organizations have responded to those changes along with the need for growth within their respective service areas – all in excess of 40,000 people, and in some cases, more than 50,000. Yet, for each one of these facilities, patient satisfaction surveys range from good to excellent.

Some of those smaller facilities like Sauk Prairie Hospital have won awards from organizations that track patient satisfaction results, while others enjoy high ratings with organizations like the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Ratings are based on 11 components of patient experience in the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems survey given to patients to complete and return to the hospital.

High ratings

Consumer ratings of hospitals are tracked by various websites, but one of the most frequently used is

The hospital consumer research firm gives out awards to the top hospitals in the nation, and bases its ratings on patient surveys following their care at a hospital.

According to the Healthgrades website, more than 1 million people a day use the site to research and compare doctors and hospitals.

Patient ratings at area hospitals are relatively similar – all are at or above the national average in patient satisfaction.

According to Healthgrades, of the patients surveyed at Divine Savior Hospital in Portage, 71 percent rated the hospital at nine or ten; 70 percent at Mile Bluff Medical Center in Mauston; 75 percent at Reedsburg Area Medical Center; 78 percent for St. Clare Hospital in Baraboo; and 91 percent at Sauk Prairie Hospital in Prairie du Sac.

Healthgrades estimates the national average at 71 percent of patients who rate their hospitals at a nine or ten on the satisfaction scale.

In the last year, Sauk Prairie Hospital received two Healthgrades awards for patient safety excellence, outstanding patient experience, joint replacement excellence and birthing center excellence.

St. Clare Hospital also received an outstanding patient experience award within the last year.

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