ONC sets sights on rural and critical access hospitals for MU acceleration
Officials from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) have issued a challenge to get 1,000 critical access and small rural hospitals to meaningful use by 2014.
Mat Kendall, director of the ONC Office of Provider Adoption Support and Leila Samy, ONC’s rural health IT coordinator have called for “all hands on deck,” to help the smallest hospitals in America to healthcare IT adoption.
“For Critical Access Hospitals and other small, rural hospitals, the path to Meaningful Use is not easy,” Kendall wrote in a Sept. 26 blog. “These hospitals—especially Critical Access Hospitals and rural hospitals with less than 50 beds—face unique challenges because of their:
- Remote geographic location;
- Small size and low patient-volume;
- Limited workforce;
- Shortage of clinicians;
- Constrained financial resources; and
- Lack of adequate, affordable connectivity.
“In these settings, the value of health IT becomes particularly evident,” Kendall wrote. “In rural areas where distances between clinics are great, and specialists may be a travel-day from a patient’s home, health IT can give health care providers instant access to information necessary to make timely treatment decisions that can save lives.”
[See also: Rural hospitals behind the IT curve.]
To accomplish the goal, ONC will provide up to $30 million for Regional Extension Centers (REC) to target Critical Access Hospitals and small, rural hospitals, Kendall announced.
“We are committed to working with all 1,501 of these hospitals and we want them all to achieve Meaningful Use,” Kendall wrote. “At the same time, we recognize that not every health care provider may achieve Meaningful Use in the next two years and we are committed to working with them at their own pace.”
According to ONC, so far, more than 1,220 Critical Access Hospitals and rural hospitals across the nation—as well as over 5,644 clinicians that work in these hospitals and provide inpatient and outpatient services—have enrolled with an REC for assistance on their path to Meaningful Use.