Regional extension centers struggling to help docs meet Meaningful Use

While the nation's 62 regional extension centers (RECs)--authorized by the HITECH Act to help small practice providers achieve Meaningful Use--recently surpassed an initial goal of signing up 100,000 registrants, additional goals appear to be a bit more elusive, according to an article published recently in the Journal of AHIMA.

According to the article, the RECs are supposed to help at least 20 percent of their enrolled providers attain Meaningful Use. But of the 90,000 enrolled currently, only 1,000 have done so with the RECs' help; most of those were early adopters of EHRs.

In particular, the small physician practices will be tougher to convince with regard to the necessity of electronic health records, Ryan Bush, manager of government strategy and physician practice solutions at McKesson, told the Journal.

"Those physicians are the ones that we vendors have been trying to reach out to forever, and [the RECs] are going to need to be creative and very aggressive with their outreach teams," Bush said, according to the article. "They call [it] outreach, but they are selling a package of services to a very suspicious buyer."

The RECs have received $677 million for the next two years to support their work. Success rates have varied, according to the article, with some extension centers running into trouble with internal staffing, marketing to their provider communities, and getting software upgraded so that their provider clients can meet Meaningful Use.

Still, RECs have found some success in reaching out to local medical societies, as well as working with EHR vendors to meet their goals, according to the article.

To learn more:
- read the full Journal of AHIMA article
- check out this Department of Health & Human Services announcement
- learn more about regional extension centers