Government task force aims to expand health IT to rural areas

By Bernie Monegain
10:18 AM

The Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture have signed a memorandum of understanding linking rural hospitals and clinicians to capital loan programs to help them purchase software and hardware needed to implement health IT.

On Aug. 16, the White House publicly announced the Administration's commitment to this agreement.

[See Obama's new rural jobs initiative includes health IT.]

HHS'  Rural Health Information Technology Task Force, has been working with the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to ensure that rural healthcare providers can use USDA's Rural Development grants and loans to support the acquisition of health IT.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and the Health Resources and Services Administration make up the task force.

Two key USDA Rural Development programs that can help expand health IT infrastructure in rural America include the:

  • Community Facilities Program, which provides direct and guaranteed loans as well as grants for community facilities projects in rural areas. This program may help offset the costs of electronic health records implementation for rural health care providers.
  • Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant Program, which may provide grants to help bring telemedicine services to rural communities.

[See also: HHS to use IT to help enroll kids in Medicaid, CHIP.]