Yet Kendall and Samy concede that other meaningful use data for rural hospitals is less rosy.
In August the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services reported that while 1,333 hospitals—roughly 25% of all hospitals in the United States—had successfully attested to meaningful use and would receive incentive payments. However, only 186 of those certifications were for critical access hospitals, a number that represents about 15% of the nation's critical access hospitals.
The federal fiscal year started on Oct. 1. Even though hospitals have until Nov. 30 to achieve meaningful use certification for FY2012 and thus receive the first of four years of incentive payments, it looks like the vast majority of critical access hospitals won't make the cut.
Chantal Worzala, director of policy at the American Hospital Association, welcomes the notion that federal officials are putting money up to address the "digital divide" for rural hospitals.
"Clearly the data show that rural hospitals are behind their urban counterparts," Worzala tells HealthLeaders Media. "Given that particularly critical access hospitals are by definition smaller and have fewer resources, we did from the very beginning worry that they could be left behind by this program."