RECs Celebrate Accomplishments, Birthday

Regional extension centers (RECs) have been extremely successful in launching health IT initiatives in smaller health organizations, an accomplishment the federal government is celebrating for RECs’ four-year birthday. But their future remains uncertain.

In a blog post written on behalf of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), REC officials Kimberly Lynch, MPH, and Matt Kendall, MPH, touted the fact that more than 50 percent of eligible providers have attested to the “meaningful use” EHR incentive program and received an incentive payment. Additionally, Kendall and Lynch note that 80 percent of hospitals have demonstrated meaningful use today, compared to the 9 percent of hospitals that had adopted an electronic health record (EHR) in 2008.

“RECs have far exceeded their goal to support the adoption and use of health IT by 100,000 small practices, community health centers, and rural and public hospitals, and while continuing to support providers to reach meaningful use, are now focusing their efforts on helping these health care providers use the technology for care delivery transformation and improvement,” Lynch and Kendall wrote.

RECs, which are funded by federal grants, are modeled after agricultural extension centers, and were originally designed to be financially solvent through 2013. However, as 2013 came to a close, government officials were unsure about the fate of RECs as federal funding tapered off.

In December, ONC’s Deputy National Coordinator for Programs and Policy, Judy Murphy, RN, FACMI, FHIMSS, FAAN, told the Journal that the agency didn’t have a good handle on what would happen with the RECs yet.

“But from all accounts, a greater percentage of them are finding value propositions and are creating product lines that are going to allow them to be sustainable,” Murphy said at the time. She added that they would be pivoting to help providers join accountable care organizations and patient-centered medical homes.

Kendall and Lynch outlined programs and initiatives that RECs are currently involved in, including building patient portals, health information exchange, and immunization registries.

Click here to read Kendall and Lynch’s post.


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