Characteristics of a Sustainable Network
- Collaborative Leadership: Promoting trust, transparency with information, creating opportunities for problem solving, and keeping abreast of the larger environment with the organizations' future in mind. It also includes a focus on members, partners, and stakeholders relative to the network's drive to meet its mission and attain its vision.
- Member-Driven Decisions: Incorporating network members' needs into decisions for network products and services along with articulating network value as seen specifically through marketing efforts.
- Effective Communication: Intentional communication with members, partners, and stakeholders. Communication is designed as a formal plan that is monitored and valued as part of a strategic planning cycle.
- Change-Ready and Adaptable Workforce: Proactive investment in network staff to support and develop a change-ready culture and workforce that is able to adapt to a changing health care environment.
- Continuous Improvement: Consistent use of process improvement tools and techniques and systematize review of procedures to ensure effective process and valued network services.
- On-going Evaluation and Measurement: Intentional evaluation of organizational efforts toward both goals and activities. Evaluation is designed as a formal plan that is monitored as part of a strategic planning cycle. There is a specific focus on involving organizational leadership and open communication of results.
- Sound Financial Infrastructure: A focus on financial processes and procedures with the intention to purposefully address financial stability through savings and diverse revenue generation.
Background and Rationale
The Network Aim for Sustainability assessment and collection of resources provides a filtered list of relevant and pertinent education, tools and resources that aim rural health networks toward sustainability.
Since the fall of 2012, Rural Health Innovations (RHI), working through Health Resources and Services Administration's (HRSA's) Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP) contracts, has provided technical assistance to over 250 rural health networks. We have provided direct support to network leaders across the country, held knowledge-sharing summits and delivered capacity-building workshops, education, and resources. Our knowledge and understanding of rural health networks, coupled with a systems approach, a study of rural health networks, and concepts from the Baldrige Performance Excellence Framework, has led to the development of our Network Sustainability Toolkit, an online portal of resources.
The Rural Health Network Sustainability Assessment, an integral component of the Toolkit, was developed through a two-year study by Rural Health Innovations (RHI), the National Cooperative of Health Networks (NCHN) and Evalytics, LLC. The study was funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP). This project is being implemented in memory of Gwen Martin, PhD, founder of Evalytics, LLC. Over 100 rural health networks participated and provided input for this two-year study of network sustainability characteristics. See the 2018 Network Sustainability Study: Final Report for additional background information.