Monday, August 22, 2016

Rural hospitals struggling with costs of IT and security during shift to electronic records

Seventy-six rural hospitals have closed since 2010, according to the Rural Health Research Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Many reasons are often cited: a trend toward managed care rather than fee-for-service Medicaid; payment cuts by Medicare; declining rural populations; doctor and staff shortages; low volume; and a high proportion of poor and elderly patients.

One reason not often cited is that with a shift to electronic records, many small hospitals are unable to afford costly new IT and security systems, or they may over-invest in them, Daphne Chen reports for The Deseret News in Salt Lake City. During a state conference last week for rural hospital administrators, Mark Dalley of Gunnison Valley Hospital "said the changes are particularly hard on independent rural hospitals that are not affiliated with a large system." He said, "We don’t have a system to rely on for IT or HIPAA or help with business associations or help with computer security and all the things that are becoming so very important."

Rural and critical access hospitals lag behind urban and suburban hospitals when it comes to electronically sending, receiving, finding and integrating records, says a study published by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. When it comes to using all four domains, only 15 percent of rural hospitals and 17 percent of critical access hospitals send, receive, find and integrate records, compared to 34 percent of suburban and urban hospitals. Rural and critical access hospitals trail urban and suburban hospitals in all four individual categories by at least 10 percent. (ONC graphic)

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