Objectives:

Rural hospitals face significant barriers to adoption of advanced-stage electronic medical records (EMRs), which may translate to an unexplored disparity for children in rural hospitals. Our objective was to determine whether children hospitalized in rural settings are less likely to be cared for using advanced-stage EMRs.

Methods:

We merged the 2009 Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project Kids Inpatient Dataset with the 2009 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society database. Logistic regression determined the independent relationship between receiving care in a rural hospital and advanced-stage EMRs.

Results:

A total of 430 055 (9.3%) of the 4 605 454 pediatric discharges were rural. Logistic regression analysis determined that even when an extensive list of various patient and hospital characteristics are accounted for, rurality continues to be a strong predictor of a child’s care without advanced-stage EMRs (odds ratio 0.3; 95% confidence interval, 0.2–0.5).

Conclusions:

Children hospitalized in a rural hospital are less than half as likely to be treated using advanced-stage EMRs. A focus of government and hospital policies to expand the use of EMRs among rural hospitals may reduce this child health care disparity.

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