What funding is available to support rural RHIOs?
Rural RHIOs face challenges that their urban counterparts do not. In the absence of a large, often university-funded teaching hospital, securing startup funding may be more difficult, and sustainability may be more challenging.
To help overcome some of these issues, funds are available from Federal agencies to support infrastructure needs as well as to rural communities to develop health information exchange capabilities. In addition, funding programs are being developed under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) for promotion of regional health information technology exchange, including in rural areas. ARRA includes about $2 billion of discretionary funding through the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) to States, State-designated entities and Indian tribes through grant and loan programs to facilitate the implementation and expansion of electronic health information exchange and to support the purchase of electronic health record technology by providers as well as other health IT-related activities. In addition, ARRA also includes funding to promote greater use of broadband services to enhance health care delivery available through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) also makes funding available for broadband operations in rural areas.
The key to developing a strategy for funding a RHIO is by making sure that all opportunities are investigated. State and local initiatives can play a big role in financing solutions. Information regarding direct funding or new loan programs may be available at meetings held by professional associations, relevant County and State agencies and local chambers of commerce. These forums also provide the opportunity to make the case regarding the need for supporting health information exchange from these stakeholders. RHIO leaders should also monitor community, State and Federal funding opportunities for grant programs offered by major foundations and other philanthropic organizations.
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