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The SHIP program—Small Rural Hospital Improvement Program—is a federal grant program of the Health Services and Resources Administration (HRSA), and is administered in Wisconsin by the Wisconsin Office of Rural Health. All Critical Access Hospitals and small rural hospitals with fewer than fifty beds are eligible for the program.

What Can SHIP Funds Be Used For?

There are two ways to take part in the SHIP program:

Option 1) A SHIP-Eligible Project

Under this option, you choose a project to purchase from a menu of eligible services.

What kinds of projects can SHIP fund? 

SHIP projects can fund three main categories: value-based purchasing, Accountable Care Organization, and Payment Bundling/PPS. Federal guidelines state that hospitals that receive SHIP funds must use those funds to purchase training or hardware and software for the following valid areas:

  • Quality Reporting data collection—like payment for a core measures vendor,
  • HCAHPS vendor fees,
  • Billing coding systems,
  • Equipment for pharmacy and telemedicine purchases,
  • Training registrations.

The following are not eligible:

  • Equipment outside of pharmacy and telemedicine purchases,
  • Staff time and fringe, including time spent at trainings,
  • Travel costs,
  • Food and beverages.

If you choose this option, your hospital is required to comply with University of Wisconsin-Madison Purchasing rules. 
The National Rural Health Resource Center has created a SHIP Allowable Investments Search Tool that you can consult to confirm if an expense may be reimbursed using SHIP grant funds.

Option 2) Dashboard Project

Under this option, you participate in our Dashboard Project, administered in collaboration with the Wisconsin Hospital Association Information Center (WHAIC).

What is the Dashboard? 

The dashboard tool provides financial, quality, and other data/information for rural hospitals. The web-based tool is completely interactive, so you can customize it to meet your needs. The tool supports the comparison of rural hospital(s) to each other and/or to a rural cohort.

What does the Dashboard let me do? 

  • Examine hospital and Ambulatory Surgery Center resources and services
  • Analyze patient populations
  • Identify patterns, relationships, anomalies, and trends in services, patient populations and other factors
  • Evaluate charges and utilization for a specific service, hospital, ASV or market segment
  • Explore market opportunities and patterns for key services
  • Study payer mix impacts on charges, services and patient populations
  • Analyze quality metrics and financial data

What are the current dashboards?

  • Hospital summary
  • Top visit categories
  • Market share
  • Top CPT codes
  • Place of service
  • Financial charts
  • Shared patients
  • Service lines
  • Quality indicators
  • Readmissions
  • ED returns

For more on the Rural Health Dashboard Project, view a brochure from the Wisconsin Hospital Association Information Center. 

The Application

The Wisconsin Office of Rural Health lets the hospitals who are eligible for SHIP know how and when to apply. WORH is affiliated with the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health—so they are involved when it comes to contracts, billing, and invoicing.

Applications are submitted electronically. You must complete the online SHIP application, no matter which option you choose. A link to the application will be posted here when it becomes available.

You will be required to report on the progress of your current SHIP project, so you will need to know who is overseeing your hospital’s SHIP grant. Two “signatures” are required, one from the CEO and one from the SHIP Project Director. Electronic, typed signatures are acceptable.


The SHIP grant is from June 1-May 31 every year. SHIP applications typically become become available in December, and are due to our office in January. Exact timing will depend on when the federal office (HRSA) releases the SHIP grant application. (Hospitals may not spend money before the contract is signed and counter-signed.)

Below is a timeline of SHIP deadlines, but the dates are subject to change.  More updates are sent out to our listserv; if you would like to be added to the list that contains important updates, contact Megan Polster, Program Assistant, at or (608) 261-1891.

May 31.  SHIP grant year ends. Last date a purchase may be made for reimbursement.

June 1. SHIP grant year begins.

June. WORH will notify hospitals of the exact amount of funding for the new SHIP year.

June 15.  Final deadline to submit invoices for reimbursement for the passed SHIP year.

June/July. UW-Purchasing sends contracts to hospitals. Once completed, hospitals may make purchases and invoice WORH for reimbursement.

August-May 31.  After the UW-Madison Purchasing contract is signed and countersigned, hospitals may begin to send invoices to WORH for reimbursement as purchases are made.

December.  Application for the next SHIP year distributed to hospitals. All hospitals that wish to receive SHIP funds must complete an application.

Invoicing Instructions

Complete the invoicing template.

Fill out the SHIP invoice template.

The Purchase Order number and the total SHIP grant award can be found on your Funding Award agreement. Both of those numbers will change each year, so make sure you have your current year agreement.

Attach a copy of the original invoice from your vendor. Don’t forget to sign the invoice.

Send to the Wisconsin Office of Rural Health.

Invoices (and questions about invoices) can be directed to Megan Polster, Program Assistant, at or (608) 261-1891.

Some tips: The award dollar amount will always be specific and never matches your invoices—but that’s okay. Let’s say you have an invoice from Press Ganey for $12,000 for HCAHPs surveys, and the SHIP award is $11,673. No problem. Report the expense date, description and amount on the template, then enter the amount of the SHIP award ($11,673) in the TOTAL DUE box.


Contact Megan Polster, Program Assistant, at or (608) 261-1891.

Contact Kathryn Miller, Rural Hospitals & Clinics Program Manager, at or (608) 261-1891.

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