Senators: Rural Hospitals Hobbled by Digital Divide

John Commins, July 17, 2013

Members of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee suggest that Farzad Mostashari, MD, the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, has little or no idea of the challenges rural healthcare providers face as they grapple with Meaningful Use requirements.

With all of the fighting, delays, and splashy headlines surrounding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the evolving status of meaningful use and the adoption of electronic health records often take a back seat.

Yet, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009 and the $33 billion that came with it are leading and funding the development of the complex HIT infrastructure that will make possible key components of PPACA.  

There are rumblings, however, that rural providers are falling behind with HITECH implementation. For example, only one-third of rural hospitals have electronic medical records systems, compared with half of all urban hospitals.  

Members of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee Wednesday sought answers on the status of meaningful use in rural America from Farzad Mostashari, MD, the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. "I'm concerned about the digital divide may only get larger as rural hospitals are expected to take the leap into the more rigorous requirements of [Meaningful Use] Stage 2," Sen. John Thune, (R-SD), told Mostashari during the hearing.

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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