Health information technology (HIT) has the ability to improve the quality, safety, effectiveness, and delivery of healthcare services in rural communities. HIT can connect rural patients and providers in remote locations to specialists in urban areas. Implementing, maintaining, updating, and optimizing HIT can be an ongoing challenge for rural facilities and providers with limited resources and expertise.

HIT uses technology to store, secure, retrieve, and transfer protected health information electronically within healthcare systems and community settings. Key components of HIT can include:

  • Electronic health records (EHR) for patients, instead of paper records
  • Secure digital networks to send and deliver up-to-date records whenever and wherever the patient or clinician may need them
  • Electronic transmittal of medical test results
  • Telehealth applications to increase access to providers
  • Confidential and secure patient health portals for patients to access their personal health information online
  • Electronic communication between healthcare providers, as well as patients
  • Electronic prescribing and ordering to help avoid medical errors
  • Decision support systems to provide clinicians with information on best practices and treatment options to improve quality of care
  • Mobile devices and tablets to update patient records in real time and document at the point of care.

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