Register / Log In

Rural physicians eligible for EHR adoption funds

As expensive as it is to install electronic health records (EHRs) in physician offices in metropolitan areas, imagine what it must be like when the nearest place to purchase a USB cord is 100 miles away.

Now, physicians in rural areas have an additional source of funding to support their EHR adoption.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) signed a memorandum of understanding in August “linking rural hospitals and clinicians to existing capital loan programs that enable them to purchase software and hardware needed to implement health information technology (HIT),” according to a White House press release.

Funds for EHRs were approved for rural areas of Texas and Iowa, as part of $55 million in financing from the USDA Rural Development’s Community Facilities Program, announced  Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. 

The Community Facilities Program provides grants and loans for projects in rural communities that enhance essential public services such as healthcare, education, and emergency services. Loans and grants are available to municipalities, hospital districts, and nonprofit organizations in towns and other areas with populations of fewer than 20,000 people. Under the Memorandum of Understanding, these funds also will be available to defray EHR implementation costs incurred by rural healthcare providers.

Additional funds for EHR implementation will be available to practices through the USDA’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant Program, which also offers loans and grants to enhance healthcare in rural areas.

Go back to the current issue of eConsult.

Hospitals and primary care physicians (PCPs) may benefit from the growing numbers of PCPs employed in hospital-owned practices, but patients and third-party payers may be harmed by the trend, at least in the short term, according to a recent study.

Annual influenza vaccination rates for physicians often are significantly higher than for their office staff members, even nurses, according to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report. That could be a problem when your waiting room is filled with sick patients this winter. CDC offers four easy-to-implement recommendations to get your practice employees to line up for the vaccine, without your actually having to require it.

The government?s new flexible bundled payment initiative allows practices to largely define their own terms of participation. But will the array of models resolve issues with undervaluing evaluation and management work and negotiating fair payment rates with hospitals? Find out how the definition of ?episodes of care? might make a difference.

Should selecting a physician really be more like online banking or searching for real estate on the Internet? The Illinois legislature apparently thinks so. See what this new law requires to be included in all physician and surgeon profiles for online public inspection.

One reason for an empty waiting room is the ailing economy, according to a recent report. Monthly indices compiled by Standard & Poor suggest that office-based physicians may see a drop in patient visits, if they haven't already. Economic analysts also found that revenues for treating Medicare patients were at their lowest annual growth rate since at least 2005. Keep reading to find out what is likely to turn the trend around.