Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Need to adopt electronic health records as part of health-care reform worries rural hospitals

A new federal law requiring hospitals to adopt electronic records may pose a financial burden for many rural hospitals, perhaps forcing them to become part of a larger organization, Bob Moen of The Associated Press reports.

"The fear is that only large health-care groups would be able to create such organizations and small hospitals would only survive if they were taken over by large hospitals," Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, a critic of the reform law, told Moen. "A lot of the incentives that are included in the law are really aimed at big cities and big medical systems." All hospitals get extra Medicare and Medicaid payments for early adoption of electronic records.

The law, while costly for many rural hospitals, should provide them some benefits. The law is designed to maintain programs like those that boost reimbursement for areas with many elderly patients and encourage youth in rural areas to enter health professions, Moen reports. "I think we're just going to have to figure out a way to make it work in rural places," Jon Bailey, research and analysis director with the Lyons, Neb.-based Center for Rural Affairs told Moen. (Read more)

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