BACKGROUND: Improving the care of stroke patients is a national priority for the health system in Australia. In rural areas the challenges may be greater. Although best-practice guidelines for acute and subacute stroke care are well established, their general uptake appears to be limited and implementation strategies are required to promote the use of this evidence-based care. The Rural Organisation of Australian Stroke Teams (ROAST) project sought to promote the evidence-based stroke practice in rural hospitals. METHODS: This was a prospective observational project designed to improve the services provided to rural stroke patients, primarily through better organisation of care on general medical wards and emergency departments. Using recognized support strategies, we encouraged the use of nationally recognized key performance indicators and provided audit and feedback of adherence to these indicators to participating hospitals. RESULTS: Six Victorian hospitals participated in this initial phase of the ROAST project. Information was collected on 348 patients. Ten of the 11 indicators showed greater than 10 improvement in adherence levels and by the end of the project period compared favourably to levels of adherence described in metropolitan hospitals. CONCLUSION: The ROAST projected supported a network of clinicians to implement evidence-based guidelines in acute stroke care in the setting of general medical wards. In doing so, this project has shown that it is quite feasible to deliver best-practice care to stroke patients in rural Australia.