October 29, 2010
They Give Providers a Running Start in the Health IT Race
When the Health Information Technology Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act was passed last year, it provided for the establishment of Regional Extension Centers (RECs) in each state.
So what’s an REC? RECs are U.S.-based not-for-profit health IT institutions or organizations tasked with providing technical advice and information to physician practices, hospitals and health clinics to implement and effectively use an electronic health record (EHR). EHRs have been shown to improve the safety and continuity of patient care. As of the date of this posting, 62 RECs serving various regions of the country have been designated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Primary care providers in smaller practices and small and rural hospitals and health clinics are anticipated to benefit most from advice furnished by the REC in their specific region. However, these RECs will also serve as a resource for all providers in an area, giving assistance, as feasible, to any doctor, hospital or clinic making the request. Each REC organization has identified a target number of primary care physicians, based on population needs to be assisted in the first two years of the program.
A biannual review of each REC will be performed and a two-year expansion supplemental award will be given to those who meet or exceed requirements. Under the HITECH Act, $677 million is allocated for the next two years to support a nationwide system of RECs.
David Blumenthal, M.D., HHS national coordinator for health information technology, has called the conversion from paper to electronic records “a challenging task for any provider.” With the guidance of these designated RECs, healthcare providers should find the process less overwhelming and more streamlined through the use of REC best practice recommendations.
To find a REC in your state, visit http://www.HealthIT.hhs.gov/programs/REC/.