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Rival rural hospitals become EHR partners for patients

Competition is tough in Texas. And in four small West Texas towns within 25 miles of each other, rivalries are real. “You’ve heard of ‘Friday Night Lights,’” explains Rick DeFoore, CEO of Stamford Memorial Hospital, referring to a book, film and TV drama about high school football. “Two of these towns are fierce sports rivals, and you would think, ‘So what?’ But I promise you, it affects everything out here.” Money-saving water agreements have been nixed, and forget about school consolidation. For years, four hospitals in those rural towns were as separate as separate can be. Then came the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and incentives for facilities adopting electronic health records (EHR). Forty-five bed Anson General, 25-bed Stamford Memorial, 20-bed Stonewall Memorial and 14-bed Throckmorton County Memorial hospitals were each solely using paper patient files. “None of us had the luxury of access to capital, but we all wanted to provide a higher quality of care for our patients, and EHR is a tool to help us do that,” says Nathan Tudor, who was then CEO of Stonewall Memorial. “There was a friendly competition amongst us all, but for the betterment of the whole we set the egos aside and came together.” Within six months of teaming up, all four hospitals had begun implementing EHR. Today, two – Stamford and Anson – have received meaningful use incentive checks from ARRA that more than covered their technology investment. “Even though we’re at small hospitals, CEOs are used to getting our way, so there was some inevitable jockeying for position,” DeFoore says. “But it was a pretty harmonious team with everybody taking a role that fit them.” For more on this unlikely and expanding partnership, read NRHA’s Rural Roads article here. To share resources and find out how your facility can convert to EHR and get the incentive checks too, join us at NRHA’s Rural Health Clinic (Sept. 27-28) and Critical Access Hospital (Sept. 28-30) conferences in Kansas City, Mo.

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