Small HIT Grant May Make Big Difference For Rural Hospitals

Really, what can you do with a $12 million dollars IT budget? Perhaps it could launch one solid EMR at a mid-sized hospital, but it’s not likely to stretch much beyond that in suburbia.

Fortunately, the economics of IT are different in the hinterland. It looks like the $12 million HHS plans to dole out to rural hospitals may have a real impact on their efforts to adopt EMRs and meet Stage 1 Meaningful Use requirements.

Under the HHS program, which was developed as part of the president’s Rural Health Initiative, about 40 organizations will get about $300,000 each in health IT funding. The grants will help rural hospitals to buy technology, install broadband networks and pay for training.

The Obama administration is also offering loans to more than 1,300 rural, critical access hospitals to buy health IT, notably systems designed to raise the quality of care, according to Information Week.

OK, now you’re going to see my prejudices on display. So here goes.

Everything I read and see suggests that rural hospitals can make great use of EMRs and other forms of high-level health IT. So, if it were up to me, the feds would spend far more helping critical access hospitals get up to speed than paying off community hospitals to do what they have to do anyway.

Not only does health IT help rural systematize care, it also lays the foundation for creating effective HIEs.

And in my book, rural facilities need help with HIEs far more than suburban hospitals. After all, if anything, rural hospitals operate on even slimmer margins than their urban/suburban peers.

I’d like to see more projects like this one, in which two rural hospitals got together to share the costs of their Meditech EMR launch. But that kind of partnership is something that won’t happen every day, as such a match requires a unique level of compatibility.

If they invest in rural hospitals, though, the feds could do much to foster such partnerships. I hope to see them do so!

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

1 Comment

  • Katherine, this is the space we are spending a lot of our time (with rural & critical access hospitals, private HIEs and provider adoption services). This market is more than ready for these types of partnerships as most of the larger vendors have overlooked this segment. It is refreshing to see your thoughts outlined so eloquently around something we are actively handling. Please feel free to contact me directly to discuss in more detail if you wish.

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