Thursday, July 18, 2013

Senators of both parties say rural hospitals struggle to adopt electronic health records

"Members of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee suggest that Farzad Mostashari, national coordinator for Health Information Technology, has little or no idea of the challenges rural health-care providers face as they grapple with meaningful-use requirements" for electronic health records John Commins reports for Health Leaders Media. Meaningful use of EHRs is required for the hospitals to get federal financial incentives and, soon, avoid penalties" from Medicare and Medicaid.

While hospitals are moving to update technology, rural hospitals are lagging behind. When Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) raised concerns Wednesday that the disparities between rural and urban hospitals will continue to grow, Mostashari said the EHR system is being implemented faster than expected. "We set a goal of getting 1,000 critical access hospitals to meaningful use by 2014," he said. "We are going to revise that goal to get 1,000 critical access hospitals to meaningful use by the end of this year." Critical access hospitals are, by definition, in rural areas.

A report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation says that from 2010-12, the number of rural hospitals with electronic health records rose from 9.8 percent to 33.5 percent, while urban hospitals rose from 17 percent to 47.7 percent.

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) suggested that Mostashari and other federal bureaucrats have little or no idea of the challenges that rural providers face, Commins writes. Roberts said, "My concern is I don't think we are getting the word west of {U.S.] Highway 81 in Kansas," Roberts said. "If we could just pause and make sure that most of the rural providers know what is going on."

Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) urged Mostashari to "get out … of your offices and out to rural America. See it. Smell it and taste it, and know what it is. It is one thing to conceptualize it. It is something else to experience it." (Read more)

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