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The Braley Brief: Using Technology to Improve Rural Health Care

August 30, 2013
Bruce Braley - U.S. Congressman (IA-01) , Dysart Reporter

Medicine has come a long way since the days of house calls. One of the most straightforward recent changes but in many ways, one of the most exciting is the increasing use of electronic medical records in clinics and hospitals.

Electronic medical records help prevent medical errors, improve patient care, and reduce healthcare costs.

Hospitals across Iowa have made the transition from paper records to electronic records, and I've been proud to help move our health care system forward. A few years back, Congress passed incentives for certain providers to invest in these new technologies.

But the reality is that not every health care facility has the opportunity to transition to these innovative and more efficient technologies. That just doesn't make sense.

From Adair to Zearing, Iowa has 142 Rural Health Clinics that provide medical services for Medicare beneficiaries and Medicaid recipients. Without these clinics, Iowans would have to drive for miles to the nearest big city.

Unbelievably, though, Rural Health Clinics don't qualify for incentives to upgrade to electronic medical records under the Medicare program, even though they do qualify under Medicaid.

In March, I teamed up with Illinois Republican Representative Aaron Schock to make a common sense change that will allow Rural Health Clinics to qualify for available Medicare incentives to help make the transition to electronic medical records. If our bill becomes law, certain Rural Health Clinics could qualify for up to $44,000 in grants to speed the transition to electronic records.

Better still, our bipartisan Rural Health Clinic Fairness Act doesn't add a dime to the national debt, because it simply tweaks the eligibility requirements for the existing grant program.

I hope that members of Congress from both parties can come together around a common sense change like this that will save money and take rural healthcare into the 21st century.



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