HHS Secretary Sebelius has a strong personal interest in rural health and has made rural health a high priority. Last year, she convened a new HHS Rural Health IT Task Force to develop action recommendations to ensure that Federal resources are used effectively to help rural providers qualify for meaningful use incentive payments.
Dr. David Blumenthal in his “HealthITBuzz” blog recounts how in the past two weeks, he has had the opportunity to meet with rural healthcare leaders at the National Rural Health Association Policy Institute and the American Hospital Association’s Health Forum to discuss the barriers faced by rural providers in adopting and using EHRs. The barriers include a lack of financial capital, shortage of skilled personnel, and having access to affordable broadband connectivity sufficient to transmit relevant patient data in a reliable way.
According to the Blog, On February 8th HHS released an additional $12 million to add additional support to help 47 Regional Extension Centers (REC) assist Critical Access Hospitals (CAH) and other rural facilities. Last September, HHS increased support to the RECs that serve rural areas by about $20 million in additional funding that went to 46 of the 62 RECs to help critical access and rural hospitals convert from paper-based records to certified EHR systems.
In the February 8th award announcement, CIMRO of Nebraska in their Wide River Technology Extension Center was awarded $1,068,000 to continue to offer technical assistance, guidance, and information on best practices to support provider’s efforts to become meaningful users of EHRs. ONCHIT is also establishing an HIT Research Center to enable the Wide River TEC and other RECs to collaborate with one another to share best practices in EHR adoption, effective use, and supporting providers.
Go to www.hhs.gov/news/press/rec_awards_02082011.html for a complete list of the February 8th awardees.