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Ramblin' RECs

May 2, 2013
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Regional extension centers barnstorming rural states to market HIE

Like country singer Willie Nelson, regional extension centers (RECs) in rural states are on the road again. Several RECs, which are helping primary care physicians achieve meaningful use, are undertaking statewide road shows to explain the benefits of connecting with health information exchanges to help meet Stage 2 of meaningful use.

Kentucky Regional Extension Center officials are in the midst of a six-city “2013 Meaningful Use Survival Seminar” tour that is taking them to Bardstown Paducah, Hazard, Bowling Green, Somerset and Lexington. The meetings start with an acknowledgment of providers who have reached Stage 1 meaningful use, followed by seminars on privacy and security and updates on the state HIE.

“One of the goals of the REC is to get boots on the ground in provider neighborhoods,” said Carol Steltenkamp, M.D., director of the Kentucky Regional Extension Center and Chief Medical Information Officer at UK HealthCare.“We have been getting very positive feedback about these events. It takes a lot of time commitment from providers, but they are pretty pumped up about looking ahead to Stage 2.”

Kentucky REC is assisting more than 2,300 individual providers across Kentucky, including primary care providers and specialists. Last year ONC recognized the Kentucky REC for achieving the nation’s first successful transmission of a secure continuity of care document to the Kentucky Cancer Registry. The collaborative efforts between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Kentucky Cancer Registry, KHIE and the Kentucky REC enabled the trade of vital health statistics that will help population health experts study the prevalence and incidence rates of chronic disease across the state. The goal now, Steltenkamp said, is to scale up from that demonstration to widespread deployment.

Meanwhile, the Oklahoma Foundation for Medical Quality (Oklahoma’s REC) is using a statewide road show to let providers know that the Oklahoma Health Information Exchange Trust (OHIET) has created a voucher program to minimize the cost of signing up with a certified HIE vendor.

Jonathan Kolarik, M.B.A., R.N., director of health information technology for OFMQ, says his organization has built a relationship of trust with more than 1,100 providers around the state. OHIET is offering a voucher program in 73 of the state’s 77 counties, and the REC is leveraging its relationship with providers to get the word out about the voucher program.

“With this road show, we are bringing in the three certified HIE vendors in the state to local meetings to make presentations about their offerings and approach,” Kolarik explained. “From the questions people are asking, they are interested in the business model, governance, which third-party payers are connected, and who the other providers in their area are signing up with, especially the critical access hospitals, because that is where a lot of the lab work is done.”

The voucher program, funded through ONC’s State HIE Cooperative Agreement Program, is a two-phase process. The first gives providers approximately $600 to get authenticated and get the HIE icon on their desktop. The second phase pays about $3,600 toward customizing their interface to the HIE, Kolarik says. Knowing that it would cost more for hospitals, the voucher program makes critical access hospital vouchers as much as $17,000.

“We currently have 330 providers signed up for vouchers and the numbers are growing rapidly,” he says. “We are seeing quite a few people fill out the applications before they leave the meetings.”

All of the REC leaders are looking ahead to 2014 when their federal grant funding ends. They are figuring out how they are going to get paid for the valuable consulting work they have been doing. “We think we have become trusted advisors to folks,” Steltenkamp said. ‘We are out to help them accomplish what they need to do. Meaningful use Stage 2 is not the last step. We can help them do gap analyses and mitigation.” Kentucky has far surpassed the number of providers covered by the grant and is already charging providers for some services, she noted. “We think that proves the business model."