Regional Extension Centers--created under the HITECH Act to assist providers in adopting and becoming meaningful users of electronic health records--have surpassed their goal by supporting more than 100,000 providers to demonstrate Stage 1 Meaningful Use, according to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.

“RECs are partnered with over 150,000 providers across the country--44 percent (139,000) of all primary care providers and more than 13,000 specialists--and helped 91 percent of those providers adopt an electronic health record system,” states a Sept. 17 blog co-authored by National Coordinator Karen DeSalvo, M.D. In addition, DeSalvo reveals that a recent study found providers working with an REC were nearly twice as likely to earn an EHR incentive payment.

Located across the U.S., 62 RECs help primary care and underserved providers navigate the complex EHR adoption process from vendor selection and workflow analysis to implementation and MU. According to ONC, the REC network includes 54 percent of all rural providers, 80 percent of all critical access hospitals, and 83 percent of all community health centers.

“Through their work, RECs have developed strong relationships with the nation’s providers, establishing themselves as a credible and capable resource,” states DeSalvo. “This trust is all the more important as many small practices are also small businesses, and the livelihood of these providers, their staff and the neighbors they serve are impacted by the tremendous technological investments and operational changes practices make to provide better care.”

Though ONC funding for RECs expires by the end of 2014, a HIMSS survey released in May indicates the centers intend to continue to operate. Despite the fact that 28 percent of the 36 executive respondents reported their funding ran out before the end of February, the survey found that 85 percent of respondents do not expect to close their doors.

According to the survey, almost half reported that they have received state funding to maintain operations and about three-quarters have applied for a no-cost extension of their ONC funding. In August 2013, ONC announced the opportunity for a no-cost extension of the remaining funds available through HITECH. DeSalvo says 93 percent of RECs are expected to be sustainable at the conclusion of the initial ONC investment. 

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