Sunday, September 12, 2010

Funds to Aid Rural Hospitals

Almost $20 million will provide technical assistance to critical access and rural hospital facilities to help them convert from paper-based medical records to certified EHR technology. Today, there are 1,655 critical access and rural hospitals in 41 states plus the nationwide Indian Country that stand to help the hospitals qualify for substantial EHR incentive payments from Medicare and Medicaid.

This HHS funding provided under HITECH as part of ARRA, is a new category of support aimed at assisting critical access and rural hospitals with their needs and challenges. Incentive payments totaling as much as $27.4 billion over 10 years to be administered by CMS will go to eligible professionals and hospitals to help them adopt and demonstrate the meaningful use of certified EHR technology.

This funding is coming through one of the ONC programs involving Regional Extension Centers (REC) and is part of the Critical Access Hospitals and Rural Hospitals (CAH/Rural Hospital) project. The intent is to provide additional technical support to CAH/Rural hospitals with fewer than 50 beds and help them select and implement EHR systems primarily within the outpatient setting.

According to David Blumenthal, M.D., National Coordinator for HIT, the added level of support will enable the RECs to offer greater field support to these communities as they deal with financial and workforce constraints along with providing access to broadband connectivity to overcome other barriers.

This round of awards builds on the funding that RECs are already receiving under the HITECH Act, bringing the total amount of funding awarded to date to over $663 million. A listing of REC grant recipients may be found at