Scarce resources, few and far away pharmacies
and lack of access to the Internet, present obstacles faced by rural
health care facilities in transferring medical records to an electronic
To assist employees of those hospitals and
clinics, the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center F. Marie Hall Institute
for Rural and Community Health, the West Texas Area Health Education
Center and the West Texas Health Information Technology Regional
Extension Center will hold a two-day conference June 27 and 28.
The first day of the conference will focus on
using electronic medical records.
Under the American Reinvestment and Recovery
Act, the federal government requires all Americans have access to
electronic medical records by 2014.
Beginning in 2015, doctors not using
electronic medical records will lose a percentage of their Medicaid and
Medicare reimbursements fees.
"It allows you to measure the quality of care
for a patient," said John Delaney, West Texas Health Information
Technology Regional Extension Center director.
The electronic records will allow a variety of
doctors and pharmacists to see a patient's medical history, enabling
them to determine more easily which treatment methods prove more
effective, and hopefully better serve their patients, Delaney explained.
Transferring to e-records raises an issue for
the entire medical field. But medical facilities in rural health care
facilities may run into extra challenges.
"In rural communities, they have to make do
with less," said Shannon Kirkland, senior director of the F. Marie Hall
Institute for Rural and Community Health.
In some cases, less means fewer people.
The process of transferring to e-records would
not require Information Technology staff only - a luxury rural
hospitals and clinics don't have anyway. The entire staff, from
physicians to administrative assistants will take on the work, Delaney
Meanwhile, some hospitals also don't have the
high-speed Internet necessary to support the electronic records systems.
Some rural pharmacies, far from hospitals and
clinics, may face these difficulties too.
The new e-records system will allow doctors to
"e-prescribe" medication and electronically send prescriptions to the
But small town pharmacies may need to improve
their hardware to receive the prescriptions, Delaney explained.
And while some rural hospitals struggle,
"It's not all a grim picture," Kirkland said.
The symposium will also highlight clinics and
hospitals doing well, like those in Plainview, Post and Denver City.
Other area health care workers will learn from these locations.
Delaney said the symposium will focus on how
all parts of the staff can participate in this program.
"We're just going to talk a lot about using multidisciplinary teams," Delaney said. "It really takes your whole organization to effectively use electronic records."