Consumer input is vitally important when planning health care services and monitoring health system performance. Australia's rural residents suffer poorer health status and health outcomes than do metropolitan residents; this, along with medical and health workforce shortages, makes this planning and monitoring especially relevant. In rural and remote regions people are geographically dispersed across diverse communities, often making it difficult to access and recruit consumers. This paper provides a framework to address the major issues associated with how best to canvass representative rural consumer views relating to health care services and quality assurance. The review provides a critical appraisal of the advantages and disadvantages of the main methodologies employed in rural health studies. Many of the problems associated with gaining representative rural consumer perspectives in relation to health can be overcome by planning the research process, adopting the appropriate survey tool and engaging potential participants.