Stimulus funds may help rural hospitals convert to electronic health records.
The S.C. Research Foundation will receive $156,000 to help rural hospitals determine the course they’ll take in the recommended conversion from paper-based medical records to electronic health records.
Amy Martin, deputy director for the SC Rural Health Research Center in the Arnold School of Public Health says the program is administered by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
Right now CMS is providing incentives to providers to adopt EMR and participate in health information exchange. But those incentives wane in the next years. And instead of using a carrot, they’ll be using a stick. And if you still haven’t adopted it, your reimbursement rates will be reduced.
Martin says the choice to convert is a difficult one for smaller facilities:
There are still some rural hospitals, and even some rural providers, who have to weigh the benefit versus the expense. And there are still some facilities in our state where it still remains cheaper to practice health care in a paper environment rather than an electronic environment just because of the cost to change their business practice.
Martin says while such record-keeping helps the patient, the cost to smaller hospitals may not be practical.
The idea is, the benefit to the patient is safety and improved health outcome, the benefit to the system over time is cost reduction. But those savings will only come over time, and as an individual facility the cost may be too much to bear in a short amount of time up front.
Martin says a nice by-product of adopting the paperless system will be recruitment and retention of young practitioners in rural South Carolina.
All of our medical students are trained on electronic devices. They don’t know how to practice medicine using paper records. It’s a foreign place for them.
A little more than $27.4 billion dollars over 10 years could be spent to help get the program underway nationwide.