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Three Rural Health Systems Receive Funds to Improve Technology

Three health systems serving rural Native populations are receiving funds to install broadband networks and upgrade to electronic health records systems, which will improve the storage and sharing of medical information.

The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium in Anchorage, Alaska, the Tanana Chiefs Conference in Fairbanks, Alaska, and the Western Washington Rural Health Care Collaborative in Seattle, Washington will eachreceive $300,000 to purchase equipment, install broadband networks and provide training for staff.

The health consortium’s hospital is the flagship institution of the Alaska Tribal Health System and features the highest level trauma center in Alaska, as well as specialty cancer care, brain surgery, neonatal intensive care and inpatient children's care.

The Tanana Chiefs Conference provides health, employment, economic development and family services to 41 Native communities in the Koyukuk, Kuskokwim, Tanana and Yukon regions.

The Western Washington Rural Health Care Collaborative is a rural health network whose hospitals include Forks Community Hospital, which serves people from the Quileute Nation.

Electronic health records systems improvemedical personnel’s access to clinical decision support; reduce errors; provide reminders and alerts; and automate e-prescribing and refills, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

All told, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department granted $11.9 million to 40 rural health networks across the nation to improve health information technology. Funding comes from existing appropriations for the Rural Health Care Services Outreach and Rural Health Network Development Program.

“We need health information technology to bring our health care system into the 21st century,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in an announcement of the awards. “These funds will help safety net providers acquire state-of-the-art health information technology systems toensure the delivery of quality care to some of the most remote areas of ourcountry.”