Collaboration and Cost-Saving Tools for Rural Hospital CIOs

Sunset in a rural landscape

Approximately 62 million people – nearly one in five Americans – live in rural and frontier areas. As we recognize National Rural Health Day on November 16, let’s consider the healthcare landscape that is responsible for 20 percent of the people in the U.S.


Funding is Tight

The big picture for rural hospitals is that most are cash strapped and approximately 41 percent of rural hospitals faced negative operating margins in 2016, a recent Chartis Group and iVantage Health Analytics study of over 2,100 rural hospitals revealed.

Further, twelve percent of rural hospitals indicate they are not considering HIT investments because of cost concerns compared to 3 percent of urban hospitals.

Prepare for the future with out-of-the-box thinking and smart planning

While rural hospitals and small acute care facilities do face challenges, there are opportunities to survive and even thrive by adapting to a market-based, patient-centered approach that provides real value to patients and other stakeholders. By embracing transparency, increased accountability and a consumer-centered model for health care, rural hospitals can provide higher-quality care at a lower cost.

Perhaps one of the most important roles rural hospitals can play is with managing population health. It is becoming more and more important for the EHR to become the CHR – Comprehensive Health Record – which combines data points on a patient’s emotional state, sleep patterns, family dynamics and other key factors that contribute to overall health. This information and care delivery that often is a part of the rural healthcare experience is gaining popularity for contributing to overall improvements in patient outcomes.

Collaboration and Cost Sharing are Key

Many remote hospitals are finding new and innovative ways to survive. Rural hospitals are forming accountable care organizations, creating patient-centered medical homes and launching initiatives to improve the health of their communities. “The key to the success of these efforts is collaboration,” says Brock Slabach, senior vice president of member services for the National Rural Health Association. As those who live miles from their closest neighbor know, working together can mean survival, and few know it better than rural hospital CEOs.

Accessible Archive Provides Complete Patient Narrative and Cost Savings  

One of the easiest steps forward in cost savings and technology leadership for a rural hospital CIO is to create a solid long-term plan for legacy EHR and/or ERP systems. Often, legacy systems are left operating in read-only format, creating technical vulnerability and running up unnecessary charges.

It is important to comply with record retention regulations.  That requires a HIPAA-compliant medical data storage solution that can secure records for the long-term — typically anywhere from seven to 25+ years based on state mandate.  That’s a long time to keep a replaced billing, human resources or EMR system up and running in tandem with new system – especially if there happens to be more than one legacy system.

Servers age.  Software applications must be maintained with the latest upgrades.  Users who know how to navigate the old system may leave for a new job.  For these and other reasons, the legacy system poses risk, not to mention cost and labor burden.  Should release of information be required to fulfill a request from a patient, lawyer, employer, payer or auditor; the patient clinical and financial history must be secure, accessible, discoverable and easy to share in a HIPAA-compliant format.

To avoid risk and to be compliant with record retention mandates, legacy system decommissioning and data archival are important components of any system replacement.  Affordable yet secure solutions exist for rural hospitals to extract data from a retired application and migrate it into an electronic archive.  This transition of PHI from a full production system into a more static yet HIPAA-compliant, browser-based relational database allows the hospital to:

  • stop paying software maintenance to the legacy vendor
  • remove the aging server from its technical infrastructure
  • ensure that historical records are consolidated and accessible in a viewer that is easily accessible over time as employees come and go
  • comply with record retention regulations

We can help your rural hospital or acute center create a systemized plan to archive the legacy EHR or ERP that exists in numerous data silos across your organization.

A solid legacy data archive can be a smart step forward in managing historical patient and operational data well into the future. It offers compliance with the numerous local, state and national regulations and a single, easy to use solution for historical information. As healthcare systems streamline their go-forward systems, so too should they streamline their archiving systems to support easy and efficient record retrieval.

If your rural facility has questions about the most effective and economical means for healthcare information archiving, contact Harmony Healthcare IT, the makers of Health Data Archiver.

Nov 13 2017

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