On Dec. 5, 2012, Wes Sternenberg, partner at Draffin & Tucker, LLP, offered his insight on the value of electronic health records (EHRs) in hospitals across America, specifically in rural areas of the country. The Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology has set a “stretch” goal so that 1,000 of the nation’s critical access hospitals (CAH) and rural hospitals—equaling 60 percent—implement and meaningfully use EHRs by 2014. While there are several advantages to EHRs, the ONC recognizes the obstacles hampering CAH and rural hospitals’ ability to achieve meaningful use, including remote geographic locations, small size and low patient volumes, limited workforces, clinician shortages, financial constraints and lack of adequate, affordable connectivity.
“There is a potentially significant capital investment that’s required, if their systems do not meet the current standards,” said Sternenberg. “And as the program progresses, those standards increase.”
According to Sternenberg, federal incentives are for using EHR but will not necessary cover the IT system expenses at community hospitals, but CAHs are reimbursed based on cost. More importantly, there will be reductions in reimbursements if hospitals do not implement the record system. He notes that hospitals must figure out how to account for the funds based on their confidence to continue meeting the meaningful-use requirements. He recommends creating the appropriate accounting from the beginning to make the following years easier and for budgeting purposes.
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For more information on the value of EHRs and the progress in rural hospitals, please contact Wes Sternenberg at firstname.lastname@example.org.