The HITECH Act authorized the Health Information Technology Extension Program and the ONC awarded 62 grants for Health Information Technology Regional Extension Centers (RECs) and a national Health IT Research Center (HITRC). The Centers offer local technical assistance, guidance, and information to support and accelerate health care providers’ efforts to implement certified EHR technology and become meaningful users of those systems. The goal of the Regional Extension Center program was to provide outreach and support services to at least 100,000 priority primary care providers within two years. Currently they have surpassed this number and are continuing to help providers and critical access hospitals to adopt electronic health records. Now that most of the HITECH grant money has been received by the Centers they are making plans to move forward and find sustainable business models.
During HIMSS this year I was able to interview 15 representatives from various Regional Extension Centers. I asked them two questions. First to share achievements of their Centers and second to tell us their plans for moving forward post HITECH money. It was apparent that each of these Centers have brought value to areas they service. They are all assisting primary care providers implement EHRs and attest to meaningful use who might not otherwise have had the opportunity.
Some of the original criticism that all the Centers were “off doing their own thing” and there was no guidance on how to set up the Centers might just be a reason for their ultimate success. Each Center was established to service a specific geographic area and those areas were each unique in their providers and challenges. The Centers were able to tailor their missions and goals to the provider needs and challenges.
And as unique as they started so will be their next steps to sustain their existence. But as a common thread to their next steps it is all about their communities and what they will need to continue the journey to health IT adoption. From extended services for more providers, to additional services like privacy and security, to patient medical homes, to assistance of state Medicaid expansion and HIE, it is an endless list that they will do if their communities need it.
I would like to thank all the representatives that stopped by and shared their stories. I would like to invite everyone to listen to all of the interviews on our radio station’s HIMSS Highlights.
- MN/ND – Stratis Health, Paul Kleeberg, MD, CMIO
- Rhode Island Quality Institute – Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Jonathan Leviss
- Tri-State REC – Trudi L. Matthews, Director of Policy and Public Relations
- eHealthConnecticut - Steve Ruth, Project Director
- Wide River NE - Todd Searls, Director
- IOWA, Telligen Regional Extension Center - Susan Brown, Director
- Wisconsin HITEC – Jessica Wang, Project Director
- Louisiana Health Information Technology (LHIT) Resource Center - Nadine Robin, HIT Program Manager
- IL-HITREC - Roger L. Holloway, Co-Director
- Quality Insights of Delaware Regional Extension Center – Beth Schindele, Director
- Kentucky Regional Extension Center - Dr. Carol Steltenkamp, Project Director and Principal Investigator & Robert Edwards, Executive Director
- California Health Information Partnership & Services Organization (CalHIPSO) - Ms. Speranza Avram, CEO
- NYC REACH - Executive Director Brent Stackhouse
- NY eHealth – Paul L Wilder VP, Product Management
- Chicago (CHITREC) – Dr. Fred Rachman, CEO
And like it was meant to be, I ran into ONC Farzard Mostashari after all my REC interviews. I couldn’t help but get his comment on the Regional Extension Centers too. He is a big fan of the program and says it all when he tells me how proud he is of the accomplishments of all the Centers. Listen to Dr. Mostashari’s comments on the RECs.