Ironically, the barriers to health information technology (health IT) adoption in rural areas are the same features that would make health IT of special benefit to rural settings. Only after adoption barriers are overcome can health IT revolutionize the challenges of isolation, distance and limited resources that are so dominant in rural areas.

Health IT is an umbrella term that encompasses a set of very different technologies, applications and skills. These include:

  • disease registries
  • clinical decision support systems (CDSS)
  • computerized provider order entry (CPOE)
  • electronic health records (EHRs)
  • electronic prescribing (eRx)
  • health information exchange
  • personal health records
  • interoperability and telehealth.

Each of the above items present a set of unique challenges related to workforce, privacy, capital funding, establishing best practices, etc.

NRHA has continued to emerge as a key partner in health IT. This has become more evident as our meetings and conference sessions dedicated to health IT become more populated by many prominent stakeholders. This growing influence is also apparent in the increased number of information solicitations that we receive pertaining to rural health IT. We are confident that our positive impact on HIT innovation will continue to improve the quality and availability of health care in America's rural communities.

For more on rural health information technology, see NRHA's official policy papers:

Health IT glossary In the wake of the health IT movement, a new medical care lexicon related to information technology has emerged. The terminology can in itself be a barrier to rural health IT adoption. A list of the most commonly used health IT-related terms is available. Similar resources are listed below.

HIT infographic prepared by the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Project ECHO

Inspired by the way clinicians learn from medical rounds during residencies, the ECHO Model has evolved into a learning framework that applies across disciplines for sustainable and profound change.

ECHO participants engage in a virtual community with their peers where they share support, guidance and feedback. A continuous loop of learning, mentoring and peer support is what makes ECHO unique, with a long-lasting impact far beyond that of a webinar, e-learning course or telemedicine care.

Here are a few of the most recent resources available:

Rural Health Information Hub (RHIhub) Health Information Technology in Rural Health Care

  • A collection of HIT information and resources developed by the Rural Health Information Hub for rural health care providers and organizations regarding the implementation and use of HIT, federal HIT regulations, workforce issues and funding opportunities.

Telehealth Resource Centers

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid/Electronic Health Record (EHR)

  • The Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs will provide incentive payments to eligible professionals, eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals (CAHs) as they adopt, implement, upgrade or demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHR technology. - Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health IT

Health Resources & Services Administration

National Health IT Collaborative for the Underserved (NHIT)

Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS)

  • Learn more about HIMSS' work here

American Medical Association

NRACH ECHO Training Center

Rural Pediatric ECHO Learning Collaborative 

The AAP National Rural Adolescent & Child Health (NRACH) Rural Pediatric ECHO Learning Collaborative: Rural Pediatric ECHO Learning Collaborative

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