ONC aims funding to boost EHR use by critical access, rural hospitals

An additional $12 million in new technical support assistance is being provided by the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health IT to help critical access hospitals (CAHs) and rural hospitals select and adopt electronic health records.

The funding, announced Feb. 8, is being made through ONC's Regional Extension Center (REC) program to provide support services to the 1,777 critical access and rural hospitals nationwide. This funding is in addition to the $20 million provided to RECs last September to provide technical assistance to CAHs and rural hospitals.

The intent of the supplement is to provide additional technical support to those hospitals with fewer than 50 beds in selecting and implementing EHR systems--primarily within the outpatient setting, according to ONC.

In his blog, National Coordinator Dr. David Blumenthal said that providers serving the rural communities face special challenges in their effort to deliver quality care.

In the past two weeks, he said he met with rural healthcare leaders at two national meetings. These meetings reinforced the message that "we must make special efforts to ensure that rural Americans have equal opportunity with their urban and suburban cousins to benefit from health IT," he wrote.

He said he found it ironic that some of the features that created barriers to health IT adoption in rural areas were the same features that would make health IT a special benefit in rural settings. "The realities of distance, isolation, and constricted resources can make health care delivery difficult, and health IT can help ameliorate some of those very problems," he said.

For more details:
- here's the ONC announcement
- read Blumenthal's blog comments