Regional extension centers slow to sign physician contracts

Surprise, surprise! Things are moving slower than hoped for in health IT.

The latest example of the glacial pace of change concerns the 60 federally funded regional extension centers set up to help physicians and small/rural hospitals adopt EMRs and achieve "meaningful use" so the providers can earn Medicare and Medicaid bonuses starting next year and avoid penalties that start in 2015.

Of the 46 centers responding to a survey by the eHealth Initiative and health information exchange vendor MedPlus, just 14 reported that they had signed contracts with providers. "The results illustrate that the RECs are still in the very early stages of development," eHealth Initiative CEO Jennifer Covich Bordenick said, according to Government Health IT.

Services are not free, perhaps another factor in the limited number of contracts signed to date. A majority of RECs said they would charge providers $100 to $700 annually, though one center set the price as high as $2,200, including membership fees, hosting services and technical assistance in setting up an EMR. Most of the respondents follow a subscription model and offer tiered pricing based on level of service offered. A few are setting flat fees, while one plans on charging by the hour.

For more information:

- have a look at this Government Health IT story

- download the eHealth Initiative report (.pdf)

eHealth Initiative finds significant gains in EMR adoption since 2007

Blumenthal: Meaningful use is not asking too much, too soon

Blumenthal: Extension centers, 'beacon communities' must help rural providers

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