Disclosures: The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.
Health Information Technology Workforce Needs of Rural Primary Care Practices
Article first published online: 25 JUL 2014
© 2014 National Rural Health Association
The Journal of Rural Health
Volume 31, Issue 1, pages 58–66, Winter 2015
How to Cite
Skillman, S. M., Andrilla, C. H. A., Patterson, D. G., Fenton, S. H. and Ostergard, S. J. (2015), Health Information Technology Workforce Needs of Rural Primary Care Practices. The Journal of Rural Health, 31: 58–66. doi: 10.1111/jrh.12081
Funding: Support for this research was provided by Grant #U1CRH03712-08-00 from the federal Office of Rural Health Policy, Health Resources and Services Administration.
Acknowledgments: The authors thank the key informants who provided their expert input to help develop the survey questionnaire and the rural primary care practices across the nation who took the time to participate in this survey. In addition, the authors thank for his contributions Mark P. Doescher, MD, MSPH, the Principal Investigator for this cooperative agreement when it was funded, and Martha Reeves for her assistance preparing the manuscript.
- Issue published online: 26 DEC 2014
- Article first published online: 25 JUL 2014
- Rural Health Policy, Health Resources and Services Administration. Grant Number: #U1CRH03712-08-00
- electronic health records;
- primary care;
This study assessed electronic health record (EHR) and health information technology (HIT) workforce resources needed by rural primary care practices, and their workforce-related barriers to implementing and using EHRs and HIT.
Rural primary care practices (1,772) in 13 states (34.2% response) were surveyed in 2012 using mailed and Web-based questionnaires.
EHRs or HIT were used by 70% of respondents. Among practices using or intending to use the technology, most did not plan to hire new employees to obtain EHR/HIT skills and even fewer planned to hire consultants or vendors to fill gaps. Many practices had staff with some basic/entry, intermediate and/or advanced-level skills, but nearly two-thirds (61.4%) needed more staff training. Affordable access to vendors/consultants who understand their needs and availability of community college and baccalaureate-level training were the workforce-related barriers cited by the highest percentages of respondents. Accessing the Web/Internet challenged nearly a quarter of practices in isolated rural areas, and nearly a fifth in small rural areas. Finding relevant vendors/consultants and qualified staff were greater barriers in small and isolated rural areas than in large rural areas.
Rural primary care practices mainly will rely on existing staff for continued implementation and use of EHR/HIT systems. Infrastructure and workforce-related barriers remain and must be overcome before practices can fully manage patient populations and exchange patient information among care system partners. Efforts to monitor adoption of these skills and ongoing support for continuing education will likely benefit rural populations.