Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Resource for Your EHR Journey: Your Regional Extension Center (REC)

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, the economic stimulus package, was signed into law by President Barack Obama on February 17, 2009. The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, which is an integral part of ARRA 2009, promotes the adoption and meaningful use of Health Information Technology (HIT).

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) spearheads the federal government's HIT efforts and is a resource to the entire health system to support the adoption of HIT and the promotion of nationwide Health Information Exchange (HIE) to improve health care. ONC reports into the Office of the Secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The position of National Coordinator was created in 2004, through an Executive Order, and legislatively mandated in the HITECH Act of 2009.

The HITECH Act authorizes a HIT Extension Program. This program consists of a national HIT Research Center (HITRC) and HIT Regional Extension Centers (RECs). The HITRC will gather information on effective practices and help the RECs work with one another and with relevant stakeholders to identify and share best practices in EHR adoption, meaningful use, and provider support. The RECs will support and serve health care providers to help them quickly become adept and meaningful users of electronic health records (EHRs). RECs are designed to make sure that primary care clinicians get the help they need to use EHRs.

ONC has funded 62 RECs (pronounced R-E-Cs) to help more than 100,000 primary care providers meaningfully use EHRs. Eligible Providers who adopt and meaningfully use EHRs may receive incentive payments through the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs. Providers do not have to become technology experts to achieve meaningful use of EHRs; RECs will provide them with on-the-ground assistance. REC services include:
  • Outreach and education
  • EHR support (e.g., working with vendors, helping choose a certified EHR system)
  • Technical assistance in implementing health IT and using it in a meaningful way to improve care.

RECs represent a range of organizations that serve local communities throughout the country. The RECs’ focus is to provide on-the-ground assistance for:
  • Individual and small practices, including primary care providers, physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners
  • Medical practices lacking resources to implement and maintain EHRs
  • Those who provide primary care services in public and critical access hospitals, community health centers, and other settings that mostly serve those who lack adequate coverage or medical care
If you need assistance and/or some guidance for implementing an EHR, qualifying for Meaningful Use, and/or connecting to an HIE, you should consider contacting the REC that serves your local community. Click the following links to locate the REC in your local community:

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Embarking on Your EHR Journey

The Electronic Health Record (EHR) is a tool and Health Information Exchanges (HIE) are services which can be effectively combined and used in a meaningful way to assist physcians and their practices to achieve ambulatory care excellence. The EHR Journey involves a lot of hard work on the part of every member of a physician practice and requires buy-in by everyone. Technology plays an important role in the EHR Journey, but this journey is mainly involved with creating a cultural shift in the way a practice operates. This cultural shift is the enabler in the practice for reaching its goals of delivering the highest quality patient care.

To start the EHR Journey, the following brief documents should be read and digested:
  1. Getting Started with an EHR
  2. The Legal Electronic Health Record
  3. Selecting a Partner for Your HIT Project
  4. Selecting the Right EMR Vendor
The small physician practices (1-10 physicians) face the bigger challenges for EHR implementation since they typically have fewer resources at their disposal than the larger practices. The following documents will help the small practices gain an understanding what needs to be done to succeed in their EHR Journey:

Friday, June 24, 2011

Welcome to the EHR Central blog

Welcome to the EHR Central blog. I hope you find it informative and useful.

For starters, there are a set of "General Interest Links" and "News & Magazine Links" in the right-hand column. It is difficult to know where to start with this blog since the anticipated audience will most likely range from novice to expert. So, your feedback is most appreciated to let me know the EHR/HIE topics that are relevant to your situation and the specific information that is of interest to you. I look forward to adding value and making a difference in these very exciting times of Electronic Health Record (EHR) adoption and implementation in the hope that we will eventually achieve Ambulatory Care Excellence throughout the United States.

One must look at the EHR as a foundational tool that will provide some benefit at the outset. The more the EHR is used, the more useful it will become. The greatest benefits will be realized when physicians can gain access to patient information from all points of care and share the successes and learning experiences of treatment. All of this needs to be accomplished in a most secure and private environment. The great concern for security and privacy was rampant when the financial services industry initially transformed from a paper to an online environment. Today, we rarely give this any thought since we have become comfortable with the protection of our personal financial information. Our hope is that we will soon be as comfortable with the security and privacy of our personal health information as we are of our personal financial information.

I look forward to your feedback and to helping in this exciting and very worthwhile EHR/HIE journey! Let us all do our parts in making today and every day a great day!!