Friday, April 16, 2010

Don McDaniel: RECs to the rescue

Many of the readers of Practice Notes are members of or affiliated with small physician practices — physician organizations of 10 physicians or less. As you are now undoubtedly aware, the U.S. government is making a significant investment, as a major component of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, to support the adoption of electronic health records.

EHR adoption is still very low in the United States, especially among smaller practices. Therefore, to facilitate the adoption and the achievement of meaningful use of these EHRs among small practices, the Office of National Coordination for Health Information Technology (ONC) has now designated some 60 Regional Extension Centers (REC).
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The mission of the RECs are to help primary-care physicians, small practices, and safety-net providers such as community health centers, rural health centers, and critical-access hospitals, through the provision of consultative support and advisory services to enable successful development of EHR systems, and ultimately achievement of meaningful use.

The REC program funding will create technical extension centers throughout the U.S., and each REC will target approximately 1,000 to 2,000 physicians. They are chartered to be vendor agnostic and to provide unbiased guidance — that is to say that they will not promote any specific application over others — with a goal of helping the smallest of practices manage the work flow and business process challenges of achieving meaningful use.

In total, the federal goal is to assist 100,000 physicians nationally by the end of 2012. Each REC will have access to a newly created, federally funded health IT research center — meant to act as a knowledge management hub and disseminator of best practices to the individual RECs and its clients, the physicians. The RECS will be moving to full operating status within the next six months and a list of each REC, as well as information about the REC program, can be accessed at HHS’ Web site. I encourage all practices to reach out to their assigned REC to ascertain how it can help you on your health IT journey.

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