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5 Stories on the Importance of Health IT in Rural Communities

Published on 8/1/2018
There’s no question that access to health care is more disparate in rural America. Health providers and patients in small, rural communities face socioeconomic and geographic obstacles that have created glaring disparities – from physician shortages to a lack of reliable transportation. Since 2010, 26 states have seen at least one rural hospital close, but this barely skims the surface on the uphill legislative and technological battle that lies ahead of us. 

We can combat these challenges through health IT solutions made specifically for small community and rural health care organizations. Here are five blogs and podcasts on the importance of prioritizing technology that empowers these health care providers.

1. Leveraging Technology to Improve Rural Health Outcomes in the Now and Next 

Mitchell Clark, Sr. Vice President, Cerner CommunityWorks

Rural health care providers deserve to have reliable, seamlessly integrated technology across all the departments they support. Mitchell Clark explains the unique set of challenges that rural health care organizations face, including budget crunches, an aging patient population and a shrinking workforce, as they operate in an unstable environment year to year. While some have viewed technology as a limitation, Clark suggests that the correct solutions catered specifically towards rural providers can open doors for hospitals and entire communities. 

“As rural hospitals figure out how to do more with less, there needs to be a way to leverage available resources. While any rural hospitals view technology as one of the greatest limitations and challenges they face in today’s landscape, it could also be the key that opens doors for their hospital and community.” – Mitchell Clark

2. Pagosa Springs Medical Center's Susan Schmidt on Achieving HIMSS Stage 7

Susan Schmidt, EHR strategist, Pagosa Springs Medical Center

Critical access hospitals are designed to decrease the financial vulnerability of rural hospitals and reduce the strain of geographically isolated communities. These hospitals are integral in providing rural communities with essential health services that would otherwise be impossible. In this episode of The Cerner Podcast, Susan Schmidt discusses how her organization became the smallest facility to achieve HIMSS Stage 7 by using technology to cut costs and improve their quality of care.

“My advice to an organization is this: even if you aren’t doing HIMSS Stage 7, take a look at the security piece. Everybody should be doing that. It was an eye opener for us, it was really impactful and it made us better.” – Susan Schmidt

3. Open Data Access is Innovating Health Care in Rural Communities 

William Paiva, Executive Director, Center for Health Systems Innovation, Oklahoma State University

Open data access has allowed providers to develop predictive tools that are uniquely poised to impact rural marketplaces. In his blog, William Paiva, executive director of Oklahoma State University’s Center for Health Systems Innovation, addresses the need for quality health care for the more than 46 million rural Americans. Considering the aging baby boomer population who are experiencing chronic conditions at alarming rates, Paiva suggests that we need to prioritize forward-thinking technologies, including virtual medicine, mobile health, telehealth, predictive algorithms and e-doctor visits, when looking at rural health care systems.

“Ultimately, we're developing tools that we can put in the hands of the primary care doctors in rural America to allow them to do more with less — especially in those environments where they don't have all the resources they need.” – William Paiva

4. Chinese Hospital's Keith Minard on the Impact of Health IT in Community Hospitals

Keith Minard, Chief Information Officer, Chinese Hospital Association and Chinese Community Health Plan

It is no secret that small community hospitals are being tasked with doing more work with less funding. In this episode of The Cerner Podcast, Keith Minard explains the unique challenges that rural health care providers face when integrating and implementing EHRs. San Francisco-based Chinese Hospital is a non-profit community hospital that offers a wide range of medical, surgical, and specialty care to a multicultural community. To Minard, one of the most critical pieces to making an impact as a small community hospital is knowing how to divide responsibilities between vendors and providers.

“Let the hospital do what it does best. I think that’s true with any vendor. There are some things we do very well because we know our community. We know our doctors, we know our patients. We have language barriers that we have to work through. We are very good at serving our customers.” – Keith Minard

5. How Data Analytics Can Impact Small Community Health Care Systems 

Brian Richmeier, Director of Operations, CommunityWorks

The resources available to small community health care systems and the populations they serve may be limited, but the quality of care in these hospitals is just as important as it is for patients living in more densely populated areas. Brian Richmeier uses a real-world example of how data analytics can directly improve the quality of patient care in small community health care organizations. By improving the median turnaround time for testing, data analytics is saving lives in small town America.

“Quality care for a patient in a small community setting is just as important for a patient in a more densely populated area. By having a robust data set available through a comprehensive electronic health record, we can answer different questions related to the process that analytics can answer.” – Brian Richmeier

Cerner CommunityWorks has been delivering cloud-based EHR technology paired with managed services since 2009, empowering rural health care organizations to keep up with the ever-changing health care landscape. Learn more here.