To help 62 regional extension centers better assist providers in adopting electronic health records, the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health IT has announced in the Jan. 25 Federal Register that it wants to expand the time period--from two years to four years--in which it will foot many of the centers' costs.
Initially under the four-year grants, the regional extension centers would be responsible for 10 percent of costs during the first two years--with ONC paying 90 percent. In the last two years, that proportion would switch. ONC now proposes to pay 90 percent of the costs of the grants for all four years.
ONC established the nationwide extension program to provide technical assistance to physicians, small practices, and hospitals to assist them in digitizing their records and using EHR in a meaningful way to qualify for Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments.
Dr. David Blumenthal, the national coordinator for health IT, said at a recent presentation that 40,000 providers currently have signed up for extension center services by the end of January, Government Health IT reports.
However, the Department of Health and Human Services found that the cost sharing, as originally specified, would be "detrimental to the program."
The extension centers still will be expected, though, to generate funds to pay for some expenses in ways that "demonstrate hospital, provider, and community commitment to the project and its goals of supporting adoption and meaningful use of health IT." Such sources of funding to could include per-provider participation fees.