Expanding Funds for Health IT in Tennessee’s Poorest Rural Counties

Leila Samy and Bobby Goode | March 26, 2014

The latest round in a White House Rural Council initiative to link rural doctors and hospitals with financing they need to adopt Health IT, such as electronic health records, kicks off today in Tennessee. The program focuses on the poorest counties in Tennessee and is part of a broader initiative that generated over $70 Million in funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other partners for rural hospitals and clinics in 2012 and 2013.

“We want doctors and hospitals serving our poorest rural communities across Tennessee to be able to afford the technology upgrades they need to improve care for patients and rural veterans in their communities,” says Jennifer Ride of the Tennessee Health IT Regional Extension Center (TnREC External Links Disclaimer).

The joint initiative helps fund mobile health, telehealth and electronic health record technology for rural providers and hospitals serving Clay, Coffee, Decatur, Hancock, Hardin, Houston, Monroe, Rhea, Trousdale and White counties. Approximately 20,000 of the residents of these counties are veterans, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics, Veteran Population Projection. Many of these vets get their health care at both Veterans Health Administration facilities and physicians and other providers in their rural communities.

“Any USDA funding resources that can be targeted to assist rural doctor’s offices and hospitals to share health information with the VA would certainly assist rural communities in partnering to manage the health and health outcomes of the rural veteran population,” says Angie Allen, Director, Tennessee State Office of Rural Health.

White House Rural Council Rural Health Initiatives

In 2011, the White House announced a series of activities to streamline and improve the effectiveness of federal program serving rural America, including this partnership between White House Rural Council partners from the HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, HHS Office of Rural Health Policy and USDA Rural Development to expand funding for Health IT to help rural doctors and hospitals keep up with their urban counterparts in the nationwide push to modernize the health care system.

For more information about these programs, see our blog posts announcing the launch of this same initiative in Iowa and Mississippi as well as our joint blog with the Health Resources and Services Administration providing an overview of this initiative and its inception.

Tennessee Rural Health Collaborative Funding Workshop

Leadership from approximately 10 critical access and rural hospitals, 5 mental health clinics and 3 primary care practices in rural Tennessee are expected to participate in a workshop with key federal and private-sector partners. The goals of the workshop are to:

  1. Identify the most pressing funding needs for each participating clinic and hospital in attendance,
  2. Engage in face-to-face problem solving and
  3. Assist the participants in making substantive progress developing their funding applications.

The program External Links Disclaimer relies on the support of all the partners leading this initiative on the ground in Tennessee including the Tennessee Hospital Association, Delta Regional Authority, Appalachian Regional Commission, Tennessee State Office of Rural Health, Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, Tennessee Health IT Regional Extension Center, Houston County Health Center and Three Rivers Hospital. These partners are committed to developing innovative ways to use existing resources, both public and private, to help Tennessee’s rural health care providers support Health IT needs of Tennessee’s rural health care providers.

This blog posting is part of a series of blog posts about a White House Rural Council initiative to expand funding for rural Health IT led by the US Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services. Follow the dialogue on twitter using the hashtag #RuralHealth