This month, the HRSA Health IT Grantee Spotlight highlights the fantastic work of the National Rural Health Resource Center’s Technical Assistance and Services Center (TASC) based in Duluth, Minnesota. Since 1999, TASC has provided technical assistance education and tools to critical access hospitals (CAHs) and HRSA’s Office of Rural Health Policy (ORHP) Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility (Flex) Program grantees.
CAHs were created under a program within the 1997 Balanced Budget Act with the intent to strengthen rural health care by encouraging states to take a comprehensive and holistic approach. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) defines CAHs as public, non-profit hospitals that have less than 25 beds, are located more than a 35-mile drive from any other hospital or CAH, and maintain an annual average length of stay of 96 hours per patient for acute inpatient care. In order to gain CAH certification, a hospital or health clinic must be located within a rural setting and in a State that has established a Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility (Flex) Program with CMS. If a rural hospital or clinic converts to CAH status, the facility is eligible for increased Medicare payment incentives. The Flex program was created to help states convert rural hospitals to CAH status. The Flex program provides funding to state governments to spur quality and performance improvement activities; stabilize rural hospital finance; and integrate Emergency Medical Services (EMS) into their health care systems.
The Technical Assistance and Services Center (TASC) provides technical assistance resources to help rural hospitals become eligible CAHs and meet the Flex program’s criteria for improving rural healthcare in the community. TASC’s technical assistance is specifically focused in the areas of health IT and quality improvement. According to Brock Slabach, Senior Vice President for Member Services at the National Rural Health Association (NHRA) , "The National Rural Health Association is proud to work with the National Rural Health Resource Center in two key areas: the National Rural HIT Coalition and the Technical Assistance and Services Center that serves each State's Flex Program. Both of these programs add significant value to NRHA's activities, for which we're very thankful."
TASC Staff has been helping HRSA and ORHP grantees since 1999.
TASC receives funding through a cooperative agreement with HRSA’s Office of Rural Health Policy (ORHP) to provide technical support to the 45 state Flex grantees. Examples of health IT activities and technical support
TASC has available to HRSA ORHP grantees and safety net communities include the following:
National Rural HIT Coalition , a network of rural and health IT leaders from organizations at every level, working together advance the implementation of health IT across rural America.
Through this cooperative agreement, TASC has supported the conversion of over 1,300 prospective payment hospitals to critical access hospital (CAH) status and helped Flex grantees with their health IT and quality improvement needs.
One example of how TASC is assisting the health IT needs of the rural provider community is demonstrated in their work with The California State Rural Health Association (CSRHA) . According to Ms. Lynn Barr, Director of Health Information Technology, CSRHA is using TASC’s HIT Toolkit for Critical Access and Small Hospitals to help a thirteen hospital network in California meet the criteria for CMS’ meaningful use incentive program. According to Ms. Barr, “each of the hospitals is currently following the toolkit’s EHR Roadmap as a framework to guide them to meaningful use.” Ms Barr describes the hospitals' progress as "significant” and has stated that the toolkit is "invaluable."
The example above demonstrates how TASC’s strong technical resources, education, and health IT-related programs have spawned a number of successful store is of CAHs and ORHP Flex grantees using health IT in innovative ways.
For more information, please contact TASC at firstname.lastname@example.org.