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National Association Creates RECs for Health IT

June 24, 2012

A new national association has formed to provide a voice for the 62 regional extension centers (RECs) that provide assistance and guidance for the adoption and use of health IT.

The Association of Regional Centers for Health Information Technology (ARCH-IT) represents regional extension programs and the unique needs of the independent health care providers served by RECs in the United States.

“We are excited about this development and look forward to working with the Office of the National Coordinator and other stakeholders to promote health information technology adoption through the country,” said Jonathan Fuchs of the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care, ARCH-IT’s president.

The mission of ARCH-IT is to compliment activity in the HIT environment, create enduring sustainable organizations and “to promote and facilitate the integration of operational efficiency, clinical efficacy and revenue maximization in clinical practices through the adoption and use of health information technology.”

In 2009, Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed into law the HITECH Act, which aims to advance the goal of promoting EHR adoption. It was out of the HITECH Act that the REC program was born. As of April, more than 140,000 health care providers had enrolled in REC programs nationwide; more than 77,000 have installed an EHR; and nearly 11,500 have already demonstrated “meaningful use” of EHR technology.

“In the short time they have been operational, RECs have become trusted advisors for the health care providers they serve and play a crucial role in helping small practices adapt to the rapidly evolving health care environment,” said Lisa Rawlins of the South Florida REC and ARCH-IT’s vice president. REC programs are modeled on extension center programs such as the Department of Commerce’s Hollings Manufacturing Extension Program and the Department of Agriculture’s Cooperative Extension system which provide vital technical assistance as part of a long-standing tradition of public-private partnership.

ARCH-IT comes at an important time in REC programs, as there is no scheduled federal support for the program beyond 2013, even while the small medical practices that desperately need REC services are facing another decade of major technological challenges and operational reform.

“In the future, these small practices will see changes affecting all aspects of their performance: from revamped payment models to Stage 2 and 3 of Meaningful Use, and from privacy and security compliance to the transition to ICD-10. The need for unbiased, trusted advisors like RECs will only grow,” said Greg Schieke of the Nebraska/Wide River Technology Extension Center, ARCH-IT’s Treasurer.

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