ONC: RECs have 'surpassed their goals'

The nation's 62 regional extension centers have outdone themselves in their efforts to increase electronic health record adoption among physicians, rural hospitals, federal qualified health centers (FQHCs) and others, according to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.

In a post published to the Health IT Buzz blog, Kimberly Lynch, director of ONC's REC program and Matt Kendall, ONC's director of the office of provider support, said that RECs have played a "critical" role in helping providers implement EHRs in the four years since the program's inception.

Ninety percent of 136,000 primary care providers who worked with RECs have adopted EHRs, according to Lynch and Kendall, and 62 percent have demonstrated Stage 1 of Meaningful Use. REC penetration was even higher for federally qualified health centers, FQHC look-alikes, critical access hospitals and rural primary care providers.   

"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 healthcare providers use the technology for care delivery transformation and improvement," they wrote.

Lynch and Kendall also pointed out that RECs are transitioning beyond mere EHR adoption, and now are working on helping providers exchange information, communicate electronically with patients and enable accountable care.  

The blog post didn't mention the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' recent survey that community health centers are still struggling with Meaningful Use despite REC support.

RECs were established by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which also created the HITECH Act and the Meaningful Use program. Government funding for RECs runs out in 2014.

To learn more:
- read the blog post

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