Rural Hospitals Behind the IT Curve
October 20, 2011
A study published in the Journal of Rural Health finds that rural hospitals lag behind urban institutions in nearly every measure of meaningful use; and the differences are particularly large and significant for CAHs.
CAHs are especially challenged by the meaningful use incentive system, because:
- investments are evaluated and subsidies determined after adoption. This means CAHs must accept up-front financial risk which may be particularly difficult for large expenditures.
- the subsidy amount may be low for relatively small expenditures, which are more common in smaller hospitals.
- subsidies are based on observable costs, so CAHs will receive no support for their intangible costs (eg, workflow disruption).
Data presented includes:
- only 4 of the measures examined have been met by a majority of rural hospitals: electronic recording of patient demographics and electronic access to lab reports, radiology reports, and radiology images.
- 5 % of rural hospitals and only 3% of CAH could demonstrate meaningful use of an electronic health records system as required by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services' (CMS) criteria.
As we all know, just having health information technology (HIT) or an electronic health record (EHR) doesn't mean we automatically have meaningful use. Therefore, implementations at rural hospitals will require leaders to identify someone in the facility who can navigate the technology, fully apply it in the patient care environment and share their learnings with others to bring the clinicians along toward meaningful use.