The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) is partnering with the Delta Regional Authority (DRA) on a pilot project aimed at speeding the adoption of electronic health records in the Delta region by initiating a revolving micro-loan program.
Officials say the DRA will provide loans in increments of $5,000 and $7,500 to eligible healthcare providers to use as a down payment for the purchase of an EHR system, while AHIMA will provide the educational component to healthcare providers and assist with provider recruitment.
This pilot program focuses on small physician practices and federally qualified health centers in Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).
With support from the HHS’ Office of Minority Health, DRA and AHIMA will recruit eligible healthcare professionals providing services to racial and ethnic minorities and underserved communities within the Delta Region, officials say. HRSA and the Mississippi Institute for Improvement of Geographic Minority Health Partners will assist in recruiting healthcare providers, as well as developing and implementing an accompanying health IT workforce initiative to be announced later.
AHIMA will provide prerequisite Web-based training and, in some cases, in-person technical assistance on health IT to providers who work in underserved communities. Providers who receive the DRA loan must complete this training.
“AHIMA is proud to be a part of this partnership that will put critical health information tools in the hands of some of the communities that need them most,” said William J. Rudman, executive director for the AHIMA Foundation, and vice president of education visioning at AHIMA.
The DRA works to improve life through funding and supporting education, healthcare, and workforce initiatives in more than 250 counties and parishes in an eight-state region. It seeks healthcare disparities that exist within the Delta region compared to the rest of the U.S., including levels of unemployment that are twice that of the national average.
Its loans, which represent nearly $450,000 in non-interest bearing assistance for the purchase of electronic health records, are certified by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.
“Converting to electronic health records promises to improve the quality of care for patients in our region while opening the door to new health IT jobs,” said DRA Federal Co-Chairman Chris Masingill, “and providing these innovative loans will spur the adoption of health IT efforts in underserved areas, while working with HHS’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the region’s community colleges to build a strong health IT workforce.”
A healthcare provider who wishes to participate in this program must:
- Practice in a Medically Underserved Area (MUA) or Health Provider Shortage Area (HPSA), designated by HRSA within the DRA eight-state region
- Have an internet connection and use an electronic billing system
- Be a small practice group of one to five healthcare providers, community health center, or a federally qualified health center
- Be eligible to receive meaningful use incentives, as defined by the HITECH Act
Access an initial application here.