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N.J. REC Transitioning to Sustainability

September 5, 2013
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Leveraging relationships with members, NJ-HITEC offers consulting services on ACO measures, registries, security

Earlier this week, Healthcare Informatics published Editor-in-Chief Mark Hagland’s interview with Anthony Slonim, M.D., vice president and chief medical officer of Barnabas Health in New Jersey, about lessons learned in accountable care organization development.

In that talk, Slomin noted that Barnabas Health ACO North has worked closely in collaboration with NJ-HITEC, New Jersey’s statewide regional extension center, on outreach and education with physicians, and with IGI Health on software platforms.

By coincidence, at the same time Mark was interviewing Dr. Slomin, I was speaking to the folks at NJ-HITEC about the progress they have made helping physician offices to deploy EHRs and their plans to remain active once their grant funding from ONC runs out in 2014.

Denise Anderson, director of strategic initiatives, said NJ-HITEC hopes to build on the relationships it has developed over the past few years. It has 7,351 members. Almost 6,000 of those are live on an EHR system, and more than 3,350 are meaningful users. The organization has also received a Medicaid grant from the state of New Jersey to help 500 specialists and sub-specialists achieve meaningful use.

“We are the only REC in the state. It was challenging because we have a lot of very small practices — over half are solo practitioners,” Anderson said. “So we had to do a good job of finding the right organizations to partner with, celebrate the movers, and let peers hear from one another about the benefits.”

She said NJ-HITEC is looking at ways to make itself sustainable once the ONC funding runs out in April 2014. “We are located at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, a public research university that has really focused on health analytics and that is a great fit for us,” Anderson added. “We are offering our members services around patient-centered medical homes, registries, and PQRS reporting. We are helping with gap analyses, privacy and security, and partnering with organizations for Direct secure messaging.”

Ron Manke, the North Jersey regional director of NJ-HITEC, said one of the most effective approaches involved “fast-track” workshops. They would bring together clinicians from a dozen practices using the same EHR as well as a representative of the EHR vendor. “We would go through the meaningful use measures one at a time and how you use that particular EHR to meet them,” he said. “This has proven very valuable.”

Manke also described how NJ-HITEC works closely with Barnabas North ACO doctors. “We are handling the education and outreach aspect with Barnabas North members. We go to their practices, and run through the ACO measures and where they can find them in their EHRs. When the ACO beneficiary lists became available, we went into these practices with a team of a dozen nurses to pull the information on them, both from manual chart extraction where we needed to and from the EHR.” Barnabas works with a few other software vendors to feed that data into analytics tools for reporting, dashboards and quality improvement, he said.

The ACO movement is starting to take off across the state. NJ-HITEC is setting itself up to be that outreach and education arm of the ACOs. “It is a natural progression from our work with them on meaningful use,” he said.

There’s no doubt the RECs have played a valuable role in helping physician practices get started with EHRs. It will be interesting to see how many of them are able to make this transition from grant-funded organization to self-sustaining consulting firm.