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Removing financial barriers to improve EHR access

Estimated read time: 5 minutes

by Mitchell Clark

Published on 7/29/2020

Critical access hospitals are often the lifeblood of their communities. Not only are they usually one of the largest employers, but they provide vital health care services to their patients. If that rural hospital happens to close, patients often have no choice but to drive 50+ miles to a larger community to receive care.

Being a small, rural hospital doesn’t mean that the needs aren’t complex. To support patients and staff, critical access hospitals need to fully harness the power of technology. But historically, challenges like shrinking IT budgets, disparate bolt-on systems and limited IT expertise have kept many of these health organizations stuck with technology or vendors that don’t meet their needs today, much less for the future.

Challenges facing rural hospitals

Since 2005, 171 rural hospitals have closed. Furthermore, 25% of rural hospitals nationwide are at high risk of shutting their doors unless their financial situations improve, and 82% of these organizations are considered essential to their communities.

These stats are largely pre-pandemic. Amid COVID-19, and the resulting economic downturn, the issues that rural hospitals and communities face will only be exacerbated in the short- and long-term.

Critical access hospitals face a unique set of challenges as they operate in an unstable environment year to year. From aging and shrinking patient populations to the struggle of recruiting and retaining quality staff members, and especially a state’s decision to expand Medicaid or not, it’s all too common for these hospitals to fight an uphill battle.

When looking at the technology, particularly with electronic health records (EHRs), we often find that many of these hospitals are using antiquated and/or piecemealed systems that can bring more headache than help. Many critical access hospitals need to make a change, but there hasn’t been a suitable option that meets their financial realities while delivering on integration, innovation and efficiency.

Expanding access to integrated EHRs for critical access hospitals

While many rural hospitals view technology as one of the greatest limitations and challenges that they face in today’s landscape, it could also be the key that opens doors for their hospital and community.

Rural health care providers deserve to have reliable, seamlessly integrated technology across all the departments and venues they support. However, without a large IT department or extensive budget, many critical access hospitals simply don't have the resources to implement new technology platforms.

Using the CommunityWorksSM model, Cerner recently launched the CommunityWorks Foundations to help these community beacons obtain the types of technology used at larger health organizations.

Removing financial barriers

To help limit the financial strain of moving to a new EHR platform, the CommunityWorks Foundations delivery model replaces up-front capital payment with a simple, affordable monthly fixed technology fee.

Cerner is further reducing financial barriers by delaying all payments for CommunityWorks Foundations until the organization goes live. This removes the need to pay for two systems at once when switching EHR providers.

Additionally, CommunityWorks Foundations includes solution enhancements and code upgrades. This means hospitals don’t have to worry about significant costs keeping them on outdated code or from having the latest and greatest developments.

Rapid deployment

It’s important that critical access hospitals realize value from their new systems as soon as possible, so the CommunityWorks Foundations delivery model operates off of a six-month kickoff to go-live timeline. This rapid deployment allows organizations to effectively prioritize, build and change management while also ensuring staff training is fresh.

Over our more than 10 years of working with critical access hospitals through the CommunityWorks delivery model, we’ve learned that the most successful organizations incorporate best practices into their technology build and processes. Because of this, we’re standardizing those best practices across all CommunityWorks Foundations clients, allowing leaders at hospitals to leverage tools and processes that are designed to work for similar hospitals and have proven results.

Building on over a decade of learning and success

Hospitals moving forward with the new CommunityWorks Foundations offering maintain the key benefits that more than 220 clients are already experiencing with our original CommunityWorks offering. These benefits have helped over 70% of new CommunityWorks clients beat baseline accounts receivable days 180 days post-implementation.

By scaling our technology, Cerner is able to reduce costs while providing our robust, integrated suite of solutions and services designed to help improve efficiency and satisfaction. And with more than $7.8 billion invested in research and development, Cerner is continuously innovating to help ensure our suite of solutions and services remain cutting-edge.

As important centers of care and employment, critical access hospitals are too important to close. We must do everything we can to reduce the financial barriers that these health organizations face in attaining the reliable, seamless technology needed to deliver high quality care in their communities.

CommunityWorks Foundations is specifically designed to reduce barriers and meet the financial realities of critical access hospitals. Learn more here.

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