The healthcare needs of residents living in rural areas are no different than the residents of densely populated cities throughout the U.S. However, there is a gap in the level of service available to these rural residents.
Electronic health record (EHR) requirements are not unlike the healthcare needs of the rural residents in that these critical care facilities outside of citites are the same as those in metropolitan areas. The problem is that these smaller clinics and hospitals lack the resources that their larger counterparts enjoy.
Meaningful use requirements are helping in expanding the divide between rural hospitals and those in the urban centers. The biggest obstacle in many cases is the money associated with the requirements, which impacts EHR technology. The intention certainly isn’t to price these rural facilities out of business – they’re in place to simply strengthen patient protection.
There are about 2,000 rural healthcare facilities that are having a difficult time living up to the meaningful use requirements of the electronic health record process. More than half of these 2,000 facilities have fewer than 25 beds in them and only half of those say they’ve been able to meet what’s required of them in stage one of the process.
When the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was adopted in 2009, it came with a provision called HITECH – Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act. This act forces healthcare providers to adopt EHR technology by 2015. To give these practices incentive, there are various rewards for adopting the technology and punishments for failing to adopt EHR technology. Many practices were already in the process of adopting these technologies, but the Act effectively quadrupled the adoption rate in hospitals.
The advantage that the urban centers have over the rural areas is mostly in resources; there is more money and a larger number of people skilled in the EHR technology. Unfortunately, the rural areas are constantly struggling to keep up and face the constant threat of penalties for failing to adopt all that is expected of them. Of those that have met all the requirements of Stage 1, staring down the barrel of Stage 2 is intimidating, to say the least.
Most of the larger healthcare organizations have eaten up the incentives as they are more capable of meeting all the requirements in the stages. While this was not the original intention of the meaningful use regulations, the gap between rural technological advances and those of the larger communities has grown significantly since 2009.
One organization that is fighting for the rural areas is OffSite Image Management, Inc. Built by individuals with vast knowledge of how radiology departments are operated, OffSite specifically caters to rural facilities that are having trouble meeting the requirements expected of them and their imaging processes. The high quality and lower cost of services
provided by OffSite are a perfect match for the critical care hospitals and rural imaging facilities.