Rural Health Clinics and EHRs

The Working Paper “Meaningful Use of EHRs by Rural Health Clinics” issued by the Maine Rural Health Center discusses why it is clear that some RHCs are unlikely to adopt an EHR or will struggle with implementation. It was noted in the working paper that close to 64 percent of RHCs are very small clinics with few providers.

The paper points out that statistically, about 25 percent of responding clinics have not adopted an EHR and close to 17 percent of that group have no plans to implement an EHR and others are unsure of their plans.

Although support from RECs would be helpful, barriers extend beyond information and technical support. These barriers include acquisition and maintenance costs, lack of capital, and concerns about the loss of productivity and income during the implementation and learning phase.

These barriers are substantial and are particularly difficult for small clinics that account for two-thirds of those without an EHR.  Without an EHR system, these clinics are going to find it hard to survive and may be compromised.

It is clear that even those clinics that have adopted EHRs need additional technical assistance to support the expanded use of EHRs. In general, clinics that have implemented and are actively using their EHRs do well on measures related to internal patient care.

Areas of needed support include engaging patients and families in their healthcare, improving coordination of care by exchanging patient information with other providers, protecting the privacy and security of personal health information, improving population and public health reporting, and improving the quality of care by encouraging public reporting of quality measures.

For more information on the Working Paper #52, go to www.ruralhealthresearch.org.

 

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