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Q&A: HIT's Critical Role in Rural Hospital of the Future

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media, August 9, 2011

This will allow us to better understand physician performance and where there are opportunities for systemic improvement. RWHC and rural hospitals are at the table with the Wisconsin Payment Reform Initiative in order to help develop the next generation of payment models so that they will work for both urban and rural hospitals.

GS: How are the 35 RWHC member hospitals preparing for the increasing emphasis on health information technology and electronic health records?

TS:  RWHC’s work in health information technology is just one example of what a rural network with strong member support can accomplish. Long before there was such a thing as meaningful use, RWHC was involved in developing telecommunication networks and facilitating electronic health record adoption.

Our main technology project has been the establishment of the RWHC Information Technology Network (ITN). This is collaboration between five of our member hospitals in which participants pool their HIT resources and access a common EHR system from our two data center locations. RWHC provides the shared staff that supports the hardware, software, and infrastructure.

We started this project a couple of years before meaningful use hit the stage, which was good timing. All five ITN members are well positioned to receive incentive payments this year.

GS: In what ways is your organization reaching out beyond the Wisconsin borders?

TS: The ITN helps a number of Wisconsin hospitals with hands-on HIT assistance, but we’re also working hard to ensure that other rural hospitals aren’t left behind in the HIT revolution that meaningful use represents.

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