The latest round of grant money to come from the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) will provide support for rural health care organizations as they implement electronic health records (EHRs) and other key health IT systems.
The $20 million in grants, which come from 2009’s Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, will go to regional extension centers (RECs) in 41 states and to the National Indian Health Board. Specifically, the initiative targets critical-access hospitals and rural hospitals with fewer than 50 beds that will use EHR systems in an outpatient setting, according to HHS.
The grants represent a natural extension of the RECs’ mission, which is to support smaller health care providers in their effort to achieve meaningful use.
As recent SearchHealthIT.com FAQs on telemedicine and the National Broadband Plan indicate, there is a lot to gain by spreading technology to rural health care organizations. However, it is an effort that will be neither easy nor inexpensive, because significant upgrades to IT infrastructure are required, not to mention culture changes. The expertise that the RECs provide will be helpful, but it’s clear that additional work needs to be done.