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Critical access, rural hospitals make meaningful use gains

Critical access, rural hospitals make meaningful use gains

Author Name Kyle Murphy, PhD   

One of criticisms levied against the EHR Incentive Programs is that those healthcare organizations and providers most in need of meaningful use incentives were least equipped to do. However, according to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), the federal agency’s concerted efforts to help critical access hospitals (CAHs) and rural health centers (RHCs) to achieve Stage 1 Meaningful Useare paying off.

Writing on HealthITBuzz, Mat Kendall, MPH, and Leila Samy, Director of the Office of Provider Adoption Support and Rural Health IT Coordinator, respectively, have revealed that as of the end of July 2013 1,115 CAHs and small, rural hospitals had successfully attested for the first phase of meaningful use. “Specifically, 62% (approximately 822 of 1,332) of CAHs and 77% (approximately 293 of 383) of small, rural hospitals (those generally with less than 50 staffed beds) had attested to meaningful use of EHRs,” they write.
As Kendall and Samy note, these hospitals face unique challenges, from geography and small patient volumes to limited financial resources and connectivity. Last year, the ONCset a goal of one thousand CAHs and small, rural hospitals becoming meaningful users by the end of 2014 through the adoption of health IT, specifically certified EHR technology(CEHRT), among these healthcare organizations. Putting its money where its mouth is, the federal agency committed $30 million to regional extension centers (RECs) to fund the latter’s work with CAHs, RHCs, and other rural providers.
Through the support of the ONC by way of RECs, CAHs made significant inroads in meaningful use over the past year.
More than 96 percent of CAHs are registered with RECs with around 86 percent registered by not yet attested or having proved themselves to have adopted, implemented, or upgraded their EHR systems (AIU applies to the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program only).
Of that total number, more than three-quarters have achieve the status of AIU, close to two-thirds have attested and are awaiting payments, and close to half have attested and received EHR incentive payments.
As a result of its success, the ONC is going to continue its efforts in the form of outreach, technical assistance, situational awareness, and federal coordination:
As we look to the road ahead, we see that we — and the rural hospitals and providers — are just at the end of the beginning. There is still much work to do in our continued support for rural health care.  We are committed to helping those CAHs and rural hospitals and providers that have yet to achieve Meaningful Use; we are also committed to those that have already achieved Meaningful Use by helping them continue to make progress and use those tools meaningfully.

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