Urban-Rural Differences in the Availability of Hospital Information Technology Applications: A Survey of Georgia Hospitals


  • This project was supported by Grant Number 1 U18 HS11918 from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

For further information, contact: Steven D. Culler, PhD, Department of Health Policy and Management, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, 1518 Clifton Road NE, Atlanta, GA 30322; e-mail sculler@sph.emory.edu.


ABSTRACT: Context: Information technology (IT) has been identified as a potential tool for improving the safety of health care delivery. Purpose: To determine if there are significant differences between urban and rural community hospitals in the availability of selected IT functional applications and technological devices. Methods: A mailed survey of community hospitals in Georgia assessing the current availability of IT applications (54.6% response rate). Findings: Georgia hospitals reported having 63.6% of 56 possible functional applications computerized but only 52.9% of 41 technological devices. Compared to rural hospitals, urban hospitals had significantly more functional applications computerized (38.0 vs 31.8, P = .031) and technological devices available (23.9 vs 18.2, P = .016). Urban hospitals had significantly (P < .05) more IT applications available in 4 areas: emergency room services (7 of 10), surgical/operating room (8 of 12), laboratory (7 of 12), and radiology (5 of 11). Overall, the availability of IT applications was bimodal in rural hospitals: over 40% of rural hospitals had adopted over 70% of all applications, while approximately 26% of rural hospitals had adopted less than 30%. Conclusions: Some of the observed urban/rural differences in availability of IT applications may be due to differences in the scope of services provided by rural hospitals, in particular laboratories, radiology departments, emergency rooms, and surgery/operating rooms. Nevertheless, the bimodal distribution of IT applications adopted in rural hospitals raises concerns about the ability of selected rural hospitals to take advantage of regional data-sharing initiatives and maintain quality of patient care in the future.