Texas regional extension centers get passing grade from OIG

The four Texas regional extension centers have "met their scope of services" in the performance of their contracts with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, according to an audit report released June 17 by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office of Inspector General.

The audit--which was the first of its kind by OIG--reviewed the extension centers' performance, budgets, expenditures and relationships with subcontractors. OIG evaluated each aspect of the RECs' contracts with ONC, including education and outreach; vendor selection and group purchases; implementation and project management; practice and workflow decisions; functional interoperability and health information exchange; privacy and security best practices; and progress providers have had in meeting Meaningful Use.  

Unlike many OIG audits, where significant fault is found in the audited entity's performance, OIG determined that the four RECs were doing a good job in conducting outreach, helping with vendor selection, offering conducting and trouble shooting, providing onsite support and offering education and training in meeting Meaningful Use. The agency had "no recommendations" for improvement, but did have a little quibble with a couple of subcontractor contracts that untimely were renewed.

OIG periodically conducts audits of hospitals, health plans, Medicaid programs, and other HHS divisions. While many may not realize it, the RECs, as contractors with ONC, also are subject to OIG scrutiny. OIG has long taken an interest in the Meaningful Use program, recently citing CMS for its poor auditing of the program and including EHR billing in its 2013 work plan.

With 62 REC programs operating around the country, it would not be surprising if other RECs currently are being audited, or will be audited in the future.

To learn more:
- read the report