CAH to CAH: EHR implementation advice to critical access hospitals from peer experts and other key informants

Catherine K. Craven, M. C. Sievert, L. L. Hicks, G. L. Alexander, L. B. Hearne, J. H. Holmes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The US government allocated $30 billion to implement electronic health records (EHRs) in hospitals and provider practices through policy addressing Meaningful Use (MU). Most small, rural hospitals, particularly those designated as Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs), comprising nearly a quarter of US hospitals, had not implemented EHRs before. Little is known about implementation in this setting. Socio-technical factors differ between larger hospitals and CAHs, which continue to lag behind other hospitals in EHR adoption. Objectives: The main objective is to provide EHR implementation advice for CAHs from a spectrum of experts with an emphasis on recommendations from their peers at CAHs that have undertaken the process. The secondary objective is to begin to identify implementation process differences at CAHs v. larger hospitals. Methods: We interviewed 41 experts, including 16 CAH staff members from EHR teams at 10 CAHs that recently implemented EHRs. We qualitatively analyzed the interviews to ascertain themes and implementation recommendations. Results: Nineteen themes emerged. Under each theme, comments by experts provide in-depth advice on all implementation stages including ongoing optimization and use. We present comments for three top themes as ranked by number of CAH peer experts commenting - EHR System Selection, EHR Team, and Preparatory Work - and for two others, Outside Partners/Resources and Clinical Decision Support (CDS)/Knowledge Management (KM). Comments for remaining themes are included in tables. Discussion: CAH experts rank the themes differently from all experts, a likely indication of the differences between hospitals. Comments for each theme indicate the specific difficulties CAHs encountered. CAH staffs have little or no EHR experience before implementation. A factor across themes is insufficient system and process knowledge, compounded by compressed implementation schedules. Increased, proactive self-education, via available outside partners and information resources, will mitigate difficulties and aid CAHs in meeting increased CDS requirements in MU Stages 2 and 3.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)92-117
Number of pages26
JournalApplied Clinical Informatics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2014


  • Critical access hospitals
  • Electronic health records
  • Medical informatics
  • Qualitative research
  • Rural hospitals

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Health Information Management


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