As clinical director of the federally funded Regional Extension Center that serves both Minnesota and North Dakota, Paul Kleeberg, M.D., is seeing both ends of physician office clinical automation. By many accounts, Minnesota physicians are among the most wired in the nation, because their market is dominated by large health systems that have made major information technology investments.

North Dakota, on the other hand, has many physicians who are starting from zero. Kleeberg will talk about how the REC is getting them over the humps involved with readiness assessment, vendor selection, and especially workflow redesign. 

Though North Dakota is picking up the 10 percent of the REC's fee that's not covered by HITECH money, making the REC services free, the physicians still have to make a significant investment of time.

Stratis Health, a not-for-profit organization that is Minnesota's QIO and one of the partners in the REC, also participated in DOQIT, an earlier federal program to help physicians get wired. Kleeberg says the Stratis Health Web site has a wealth of resources springing from that work, and he plans to point his HIMSS audience to some tools they can use to ease their path to meaningful use.

"Half the time we spend [with physician practices] is setting goals, talking about why they want electronic records, and preparing them to select a vendor," Kleeberg says. "They're jazzed when they turn the system on, and then they hit the valley of despair. But if you've done a lot of pre-work and given them measures so they can see early wins—cost savings, or the amount of dictation going down—the valley is narrower and shallower."


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