Rural hospitals get help with electronic records

One of the pressures on small rural hospital these days is the push to create electronic patient records.

It’s a pressure on the whole medical system but is especially hard and potentially costly for small hospitals. Driven partly by national health care reform laws, it has been a factor in sending some small-town hospitals into the arms of the large and growing regional health care systems like Mayo and Sanford and Essentia.

Now the federal government is putting $30 million into an effort help small rural hospitals, those known as critical access hospitals. The goal is for those small hospitals to “meaningfully use” electronic records by the end of 2014. To what end?

“If a patient has to be transferred to Minneapolis or St. Paul, that information can go with them. It’s easier to find out what tests have been done and what medications are being used,” said Peter Ashkenaz, spokesman at HealthIT in the Department of Health and Human Services.

It’s not clear how much of the money will come to Minnesota, but it’s distributed among the department’s regional extension centers, one of which covers Minnesota and North Dakota.

You can find more on the pressures on rural hospitals on our Ground Level rural health care page.

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