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Thousands of Providers Decide to Adopt EHRs through Regional Extension Centers

November 17, 2011

The Health and Human Services Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology said that more than 100,000 primary care providers are adopting certified electronic health records (EHRs) to help improve their quality of care and ultimately lower health care costs.

This commitment by more than one-third of healthcare providers nationwide to work with their regional extension center (REC) to participate in the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive program as a way to transition from paper records to certified EHRs, representing a step towards broader and more meaningful use of health IT.

Designed to jump start EHR adoption, the Health Information Technology Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009, part of the Recovery Act, created a nationwide network of RECs comprised of local nonprofits, to provide guidance and resources to help eligible professionals make the transition from paper records to certified EHRs. Eligible providers that meet meaningful use of certified EHRs criteria may be eligible for incentive payments under the Recovery Act.

The 62 RECs focus on assisting providers and those providers serving traditionally medically underserved populations as they take part in the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive programs and meaningfully using EHRs in ways that can reduce health care costs, increase patient safety, and improve the overall quality of patient care. These providers face challenges in adoption of EHRs including tight budgets, over-stretched health IT staff, and limited broadband access.

“The RECs are playing an integral role in helping providers on the path to EHR adoption,” said Farzad Mostashari, MD, ScM, of the Office of National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. “This compelling milestone demonstrates strong interest in adoption and meaningful use among community health centers, small practices, and rural providers that can lead to improvements in health and healthcare.”

One-half of the providers committed to making the transition to certified EHRs are in small group practices or consortia of small group practices. The remaining providers focus on the underserved with 18 percent in community health centers, 11 percent in public hospitals, and 21 percent in other underserved settings, such as critical access hospitals, rural health clinics, and practices in medically underserved areas.

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