Disparities remain in health IT adoption among rural providers

Overall, rural providers have adopted Meaningful Use at about the same rate as urban providers, however, greater disparities persist between different rural practices, new research shows.

About 82 percent of rural physicians adopted electronic health record systems in 2013, compared to 78 percent of urban ones, according to a study published in Health Affairs. But rural dentists saw only 9.5 percent adoption of Meaningful Use; advanced practice nurses saw only 33.3 percent and physician assistants saw 28.1 percent.

The report's author, Dawn M. Heisey-Grove, a public health analyst at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, found that rural providers were more likely to miss a year of attestation to the program. About 34 percent of urban providers skipped a year, where 38 percent of rural providers did so.

ONC reported in November that rural areas need more financial support when it comes to health IT.

Leila Samy, ONC's rural health IT coordinator, said the agency is aiding a number of initiatives to help poor and rural communities locate financing and facilitate broadband connectivity.

In addition, Heisey-Grove found that while rural providers had higher rates of e-prescribing and e-transmission of summaries of care, they had lower rates of sharing information, such as local immunization records.

The study did find that help from Regional Extension Centers was beneficial to smaller, rural providers.

"[A]lthough rural providers' overall initial health IT adoption rates were higher than those of urban providers, substantial adoption disparities existed within the rural community," Heisey-Grove concluded. "Rural providers ... may require additional assistance to support their ongoing use of health IT and sustain delivery and payment reform efforts."

To learn more:
- here's the Health Affairs study