In the fall of 2007, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Office of Rural Health Policy (ORHP) utilized $25 million in one-time funding to support 16 rural grantees to develop and implement HIT pilot networks in an 18-month time frame. OHRP funded grantees through its Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility (Flex) Critical Access Hospital (CAH) Health Information Technology (HIT) Network Implementation Program, which promotes the implementation of HIT in CAHs and their associated network of providers in States that are current Medicare Flex grantees.The grantees were charged with designing, creating, and implementing functional pilot networks to improve coordination of care in their communities, and provide lessons learned for future providers and networks in adopting HIT.
The Flex CAH HIT program concentrated funding within smaller service areas to increase the likelihood of creating sustainable pilot projects. Grant applicants were required to identify up to three CAHs and their associated network of providers that together provide a full continuum of care for rural residents in their service area. To build upon existing patterns of care, it was critical that the Flex applicant propose a network that followed common patient referral patterns. The network could include local partners for the CAH, including but not limited to tertiary / referral hospitals, private practice physicians, Medicare-certified Rural Health Clinics (RHCs), Community Health Centers (CHCs) / Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), nursing facilities, home health agencies, public health departments, and emergency medical service providers.
This report describes an evaluation of these grantees that were charged with designing, creating, and implementing functional pilot networks to improve coordination of care in their communities, and provide lessons learned for future providers and networks in adopting HIT.