David Blumenthal, M.D., national coordinator for health information technology, has announced selection of the final Regional Extension Centers (RECs). The move completes a national system of 62 organizations that are charged to help physicians, clinics and hospitals adopt electronic health records. Two new centers were named to cover Orange County, Calif., and the state of New Hampshire. In addition, service areas were expanded for two already-named Florida RECs, completing REC coverage of all areas of the country. “The selection of these final awardees means that Regional Extension Centers are now in place in every region of our country to help health providers make the switch from paper-based medical practice to electronic health records,” according to a statement from Blumenthal. “For primary care physicians and smaller hospitals in particular, the RECs will be an important resource to help meet the challenges of adopting EHRs and using them to deliver better care.” The two new RECs include CalOptima Foundation, covering Orange County, Calif. It received federal funding of $4.6 million. In addition, the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative will cover the state of New Hampshire. It received $5.1 million. Blumenthal also announced expanded coverage areas for two Florida REC organizations: Community Health Centers Alliances will cover additional areas in Glades and Hendry counties, and Health Choice Network of Florida will cover additional areas in Indian River, Palm Beach, St. Lucie, Martin and Okeechobee counties.
RECs were created last year under the Health Information Technology Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, which earmarked nearly $2 billion for new programs to provide training and technical assistance and to demonstrate the effectiveness of health information technology in supporting improvement in care. Under the HITECH Act, $677 million is allocated for the next two years to support a nationwide system of RECs. “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,” Blumenthal said.
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