Thursday Roundup: Electronic Records

Rural hospital death rates • Support for fracking lowest in Northeast • Connecting rural • Sen. Gillibrand dairy initiatives 

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Rural physicians and clinics will have a tougher time than their urban counterparts converting to electronic health records, a story from Marketplace says: 

“There are big upfront costs for licensing the software and purchasing the computer equipment, according to Brock Slabach, senior vice-president of the National Rural Health Association. ‘It could be $30,000-$40,000 per physician possibly in terms of getting one of these set up in a clinic — possibly more depending upon the complexities that might be present within that particular facility,’ he says.”

That’s a big expense for small clinics or practices.  

Electronic health records are part of federal initiatives to contain health care costs. The idea is that the digital records will streamline things like prescriptions, insurance claims and information sharing among health-care providers. But a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research says the cost of keeping records actually rises sharply the first year and can remain higher than average for years at locations with less technical capacity.

More Health-Care News:  Brock Slabach at the National Rural Health Association also is quoted in a Kaiser Health News report on death rates at rural critical access hospitals. The report claims that rural hospital care is declining, as evidenced by climbing death rates while other hospitals’ death rates are declining. 

“Brock Slabach …cautioned against drawing sweeping conclusions from the report. ‘Mortality is just one small part of the picture of what qualities means,’ he said. He said the association’s own research has found that rural hospitals do better in patient satisfaction surveys than do urban hospitals, and that there’s no substantial difference in other measures such as readmissions.”

Fractious Fracking. Support for fracking divides along regional and partisan lines, a new poll shows.

The poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press finds that support for fracking is lowest in the Northeast United States, where only 37% of respondents supported the method of extracting natural gas. Support was highest in the Midwest (55% in favor) and the South (52%). 

Less than half (42%) of respondents in the West supported fracking, the poll found. Two thirds of Republicans supported fracking, while one third of Democrats did so.

The poll also found broad support for the XL Pipeline, the controversial project to carry heavy crude oil from Canada to Texas refineries.  Nationally, about two thirds of respondents supported the project. Four out of five Republicans supported the project, while about half of Democrats did. Pew didn’t break out this part of the poll by region.

The poll was fielded just days before a crude-oil pipeline leak in Arkansas forced the evacuation of 22 homes.

Pew’s poll didn’t break out the results by metropolitan/rural.

Minn. Senator Promotes Rural Connectivity. U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) touts rural connectivity in an op/ed appearing in the Duluth News Tribune. Klobuchar, says she’s urging the Federal Communications Commission to crack down on phone companies that drop calls to rural areas to lower costs. She says she’s promoting federal funding for broadband connectivity to rural areas. And the second-term senator wants to stop the practice of “locking” cell phones, in which carriers won’t allow customers to use their phones on another network if they switch carriers. 

Klobuchar writes:

“Just as we’ve built a transportation infrastructure of roads and bridges, we now need a 21st century communications infrastructure to keep our rural communities connected with the world. Whether it’s phone service or high-speed Internet, it needs to be accessible, affordable and reliable. “

Dairy Initiatives. U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) announced new initiatives aimed at protecting New York’s small dairy farmers. She told reporters April 3 that the Dairy Pricing Reform Act, cosponsored by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine will “do away with milk market distortions and bring ‘income fairness’ to small dairies.”

According to Agri-Pulse, her proposal puts her at odds with fellow Democrat Collin Peterson, House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member from Minnesota, who favors a different approach.

New York ranks third in the number of dairies, behind only Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, according to USDA 2012 statistics.

Fire Fighting Vs. the Arts and Bingo. A plan to increase funding for rural fire departments in Texas would require cutting funding to economic development ($19.5 million), the state arts commission ($6.5 million) and bingo law enforcement compliance ($1.4 million). Funding for rural fire departments comes from a surcharge on property insurance, but less than a quarter of the funds collected from the surcharge goes to rural departments.

 

Topics: Ag and TradeHealth
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