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California RECs Report Progress

March 14, 2011
by David Raths
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CalHipso, the state's largest regional extension center, has enrolled more than 3,800 providers to date

During a March 10 California eHealth stakeholder webinar, leaders of the state’s three regional extension centers (RECs) gave progress reports on enrolling physicians in programs to meaningfully use electronic health records (EHRs).

Speranza Avram, executive director of the California Health Information Partnership and Services Organization (CalHipso), the largest REC, said that more than 3,800 providers have enrolled to date, and seven hospitals have signed up for the rural hospital supplemental funding program. (CalHIPSO is tasked with assisting more than 6,000 providers across California achieve federal meaningful use criteria by 2014.)

Since spring 2010, more than 50,000 providers have signed up with RECs nationwide, according to the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology. Earlier this year, ONC extended the timelines of RECs’ cooperative agreements, giving them four years over which to attain their goals. Initially RECs had two years of 90/10 federal matching funding. Now that match has been extended to years three and four.

CalHipso recently signed a deal with eClinicalWorks, the first of several EHR vendors that will be offered to California health care providers through a group purchasing agreement. The vendor contract contains detailed terms and conditions, and pre-negotiated pricing. (The list of contracted vendors will be posted at

Avram said the negotiations are taking longer than expected because CalHipso worked with attorneys to develop a contract from scratch, stressing the legal protection of providers. “We were rather surprised about the lack of protection in terms of data security and ownership and limits of liability during data breaches in a typical contract,” she said. “We had to work with vendors to agree to our terms and conditions, and that was more difficult than we had anticipated.”

Mary Franz, executive director of the HITEC-LA REC, said more than 1,800 providers in Los Angeles County have enrolled. The solo practitioners still need help with EHR vendor selection and connectivity issues, while clinics are mostly already in the process of implementing and need assistance with meaningful use guidelines, she said.

Karynsue Frank, director of CalOptima, Orange County’s REC, said its early adoption campaign has signed up 125 members. Its goal is to assist at least 1,000 physicians in the first two years of the program.