Regional Extension Centers aid states in health information exchange, quality improvement

As funding dries up for Regional Extension Centers, some are moving into a new market: Health information exchange and Meaningful Use support. In New Hampshire, for example, a nonprofit REC operates the state's health information exchange, helping providers with technology as they tackle quality-improvement projects and alternative payment models.

Most RECs plan to remain open even as federal funding runs out this year, a HIMSS survey found. Almost half receive some state funding and most plan to seek other sources of support.

"The need is still there and in some cases the need is here more than it ever was before," Jeff Loughlin, executive director of the New Hampshire REC and the NH Health Information Organization, told Government Health IT.

It has also provided oversight, education and tools to help providers achieve Meaningful Use. The HIE has signed 60 organizations to multiyear contracts as they venture into projects focused on accountable care, medical homes and quality care contracts with payers, according to the article.

Most of the organizations exchange care summaries, lab and radiology results, using direct technologies. Loughlin said about a third of the state's providers participate in the center, with another third preparing to join.

RECs have surpassed their goals for increasing adoption of electronic health records in the healthcare industry,  the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT announced recently. Ninety percent of 136,000 primary care providers who worked with RECs have adopted EHRs, and and 62 percent have demonstrated Stage 1 of Meaningful Use.

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