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Healthcare IT Challenges in Rural Areas

The Regional Extension Center provides technical assistance in the implementation programs of Certified EHR Technology.  During times of implementation, the Regional Extension Centers, or REC for short, leave FTEs on site to carry on the newly implemented systems.  In many instances, the confidence that the FTEs will remain on site in the long run causes providers to drop out of the REC program.

In rural areas, this becomes a challenge when the FTEs begin to seek greater opportunities elsewhere, and leave the running operation with no easy replacement to fill in.  Reasons for the operating FTEs to leave vary.  Ultimately, the reasons stem to the fact that rural areas simply do not offer the same opportunities community-wide than urbanized locations.  From basic shopping needs, to services, to schools and higher learning institutions and careers in IT-related fields, rural areas are least likely hold a growing family with members whose careers are in the IT industry.  Likewise, rural areas are least likely to attract IT professionals that are living in a metropolitan area and offer them desirable compensation that will allow candidates to overlook the lack of communal resources in the area.

With this comes the issue of falling behind on technological advances.  The progression of Meaningful Use data also falls behind and without regular maintenance, it eventually becomes outdated.

A possible solution is cloud-based implementations that allow healthcare providers to continue to update their data.  This can only go so far; once the data and integration for the stage is completed, there is very little else to move forward unless the next stage is completed.
One trend that is currently taking place as part of the solutions is merging or becoming a part of a large healthcare system.  Becoming a part of a healthcare system allows the system representatives to take action and assign their IT people on site for the duration of an implementation without compromising the hospital’s data freshness and integrity.