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H H S Department of Health and Human Services
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Health Information Technology

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What strategies can rural groups use to overcome limited numbers of staff?

Overcoming limited number of staff and resources is challenging in rural communities.  No model fits all organizations thus each group must determine ways to recruit and retain talented staff.  This can be particularly challenging in rural communities because each staff member often develops broad areas of expertise to fill multiple roles within the organization and can be difficult to replace.  

One approach for rural health organizations is to augment the expertise of existing clinical staff by providing opportunities for additional training in health IT.  Clinical staff who demonstrate an interest or aptitude in information technology can be provided with tuition reimbursement or other incentives to obtain necessary information system skills.  Another option may be to seek new staff who will likely stay in the community and provide them with support for information technology education.  In addition, developing work-study programs with local high schools, technical schools, community colleges and colleges can be beneficial for both students and the health care organization.  When recruiting and retaining staff from outside the area, the organization should emphasize the benefits of living in a small community, such as the low cost of living.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) provides funding for the development of health IT training programs.  By increasing the number of health IT trained workers, staff shortages in small and rural communities may be alleviated.

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Developed by the Health Resources and Services Administration as a resource for health centers and other safety net and ambulatory care providers who are seeking to implement health IT.
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