Two Minnesota hospitals will use more than $2.3 million in state loans to implement electronic health records this year.
Swift County-Benson (Minn.) Hospital and 90-bed Mille Lacs Health System, Onamia, received the loans to complete the implementation. Swift County-Benson hopes to have its financial system completed by July and its clinical system operating in August, said Frank Lawatsch, chief executive officer. The 18-bed hospital is using a Meditech product provided through Sisu Medical Systems, a cooperative of 16 medical centers in Minnesota that work together to share information technology resources, such as staff, hardware, software and data centers.
Minnesota's Electronic Health Record System Revolving Account and Loan Program, signed into law last year, provides $6.3 million to rural hospitals, small-town physician clinics, nursing homes and other community healthcare providers to replace paper records with EHRs. The state's healthcare facilities are on a deadline to use EHRs by Jan. 1, 2015, under a government mandate.
The no-interest loans, up to $1.5 million for a facility, are provided on a first-come, first-served basis. Facilities go through a two-step process to be selected: first, pre-applications are reviewed, and the state chooses from those that can be invited to submit full applications, said Anne Schloegel, planner senior in the Office of Rural Health and Primary Care.
Facilities must demonstrate they have completed a needs assessment, selected a vendor and planned the implementation process to qualify for a loan, Schloegel said. The money is meant to give smaller facilities a boost for the final stages of an EHR launch, she said. "They've already done all the pre-planning."
For the rural hospitals that don't have a large IT infrastructure, that is a welcome boost. "We'd been considering (an EHR) for a while," Lawatsch said. "We certainly could use the funding."
The loans are part of Minnesota's e-Health Initiative, a set of strategies to align health IT with patient safety and quality programs. The initiative also includes a $7 million EHR grant program to support facilities that build interoperable health records.
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