Feds corral online tools to help rural hospitals manage IT projects

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services recently created a new online toolkit bringing a host of federal resources into one place. The goal: To give rural providers easier access to federal programs that can help them improve overall IT systems, as well as implement electronic records and reach Meaningful Use goals more quickly.

The toolkit, co-developed by the Rural Assistance Center and the National Rural Health Resource Center, shows rural providers:

  • Where to find funding: The site lists a host of lesser-known federal grants and loans that rural hospitals may be eligible for, plus it provides some guidance on how to apply. For example, rural providers can be reimbursed for some of their telecom and Internet service costs through the Rural Health Care Program Universal Services Fund.
  • How to get started: The toolkit includes workflow designs, strategic plans, project checklists, a cost/benefits database, and readiness assessments--many of which have been used in live IT projects in the field.
  • What mistakes to avoid: The toolkit provides case studies on implementations around the U.S., as well as contact information for regional extension services, which providers can tap for in-person, on-site technical assistance.

"A lot of rural providers need guidance on putting an HIT system in place," National Rural Health Resource Center Executive Director Terry Hill said, according to an announcement. "This toolkit gives them a starting point and can help them get through the entire implementation process."

To learn more:
- read the RAC announcement
- check out the RAC toolkit website
- read the iHealthBeat article

Related Articles:
Critical access hospitals deserve EHR incentive dollars, not CMS gaffes
Meaningful use tops list of 'key IT issues' for 2012

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