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Policymaking, Regulation, & Strategy

Rural Healthcare Initiative

USDA and HHS Agreement Helps Expand Health IT Infrastructure in Rural America

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Rural Health Information Technology (Health IT) Task Force, specifically the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and the Health Resources and Services Administration, worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to ensure that rural health care providers can use USDA's Rural Development grants and loans to support the acquisition of health IT infrastructure.

HHS and USDA signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) linking rural hospitals and clinicians to existing capital loan programs that enable them to purchase software and hardware needed to implement health IT. On August 16, 2011, the White House publicly announced the Administration's commitment to this MOU in a press release.

Two key USDA Rural Development programs that can help expand health IT infrastructure in rural America are the:

  • Community Facilities Program, which provides direct and guaranteed loans as well as grants for community facilities projects in rural areas. This program may help offset the costs of electronic health records implementation for rural health care providers.
  • Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant Program, which may provide grants to help bring telemedicine services to rural communities.

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