Rural hospitals get cash to connect

Financially strapped critical access hospitals can now connect to state HIE

Financially strapped rural and critical access hospitals that are struggling with EHR implementation costs are about to get some big relief across the state of Arkansas.

A new awards initiative, the SHARE Connectivity Program, will help assist rural hospitals across 18 Arkansas counties with the costs of connecting their EHRs to the state's health information exchange, officials announced Thursday. 

Delta Regional Authority and Arkansas' Office of Health Information Technology will provide more than $195,000 for hospitals unable to connect to State Health Alliance for Records Exchange -- the state HIE -- due to financial barriers. Each facility could receive up to $10,000. Currently, EHR vendor costs for these hospitals typically range from $6,000 to $15,000 for implementation, according to state officials.

Critical access hospitals and small rural hospitals across Arkansas have already made the move from paper records to EHR systems to meet meaningful use requirements. Without connecting to the state HIE, however, these hospitals may not be able to efficiently exchange patient information with larger hospital systems and healthcare providers, officials point out.

"These small hospital systems are a critical part of the Arkansas healthcare network," said Ray Scott, director of the state’s Office of Health Information Technology, in a news release. "Having them connect to SHARE will give them access to more complete health information about their patients, and improve their ability to coordinate their patients' care with other providers."

"The SHARE Connectivity Program is an important step in bringing our state’s rural hospitals to the next level of healthcare delivery," said Gov. Mike Beebe, in a statement. "Connecting these hospitals to our state’s network of electronic health records will provide much needed coordinated healthcare to Arkansas families and communities.”