By Ken Congdon
According to our fourth annual Community Hospital Health IT Survey, MU is creating a new breed of unique challenges for small, rural hospitals — challenges that may require drastic changes to address.
Every year, Health IT Outcomes surveys more than 100 small community and critical access hospitals (300 beds or fewer) to gain an in-depth understanding of the health IT trends and challenges having the most significant impact on this key segment of the care continuum. Not surprisingly, every year the survey reveals that limited financial and human resources make it difficult for these smaller providers to meet their health IT demands. This year provided more of the same. However, some compelling new information did come to light as a result of this year’s survey. Namely, our respondents were outspoken in communicating how recent Meaningful Use (MU) program requirements are introducing a new set of unique challenges to community hospitals. These new challenges are widely viewed as shortsighted and unfair by community hospital leaders, but this contingent realizes that these requirements are unlikely to change. Addressing these new demands will require community hospitals to carefully assess their health IT strategy and often make drastic process and organizational changes. The following article outlines some of these new challenges and examines how some community hospitals are responding.