This week, the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology selected the final two awardees for the regional extension center program, completing a national network of RECs for every region in the country.
The ONC awarded $4.6 million to CalOptima Foundation, covering Orange County in California; and $5.1 million to the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative, covering the state of New Hampshire. Additionally, it was announced that two Florida RECs have expanded their coverage areas: Community Health Centers Alliance Inc. will cover more areas in Glades and Hendry counties, and Health Choice Network Inc. will cover more areas in Indian River, Palm Beach, St. Lucie, Martin and Okeechobee counties.
Regional extension centers were established under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health, or HITECH, Act to assist health care providers with the selection, installation, implementation and adoption of electronic health records (EHR). The goal of the REC program is to provide outreach and assistance to at least 100,000 priority primary-care providers in the United States within two years. The complete national REC system now includes 62 organizations.
Although RECs have faced a number of challenges in helping to boost the rate of health IT adoption, Dr. David Blumenthal, national coordinator for health information technology, believes they are an important resource — especially for smaller providers. “Conversion from paper to electronic health records is a challenging task for any provider, and we believe that help from the RECs will make an important difference, especially in assisting doctors in smaller practices and the smaller and rural hospitals,” he said. RECs can “be important in helping providers make full use of the potential of EHRs for improving care and making medical practices work more effectively and efficiently,” he noted.
For a complete listing of regional extension centers, along with contact information for each, check out Health IT Exchange’s REC resource chart.