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eHI Survey: RECs Making Solid Progress

June 29, 2011
by David Raths
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Centers starting to coordinate activities with other federal health programs

As the 62 regional extension centers (RECs) moved from planning to operational stages over the last year, many have had success in meeting their goals of assisting priority primary care physicians with electronic health record adoption, according to a survey just released by the Washington, D.C.-based eHealth Initiative.

Of the 62 RECs, 39 completed the entire survey, which is a follow-up to a survey conducted in 2010. Of the 32 RECs responding, 25 reported that more than 70 percent of targeted priority primary care providers (PPCPs) have signed agreements. Ten of these RECs reported 90 percent or more of the targeted PPCPs have signed agreements.

However, as expected, the RECs are having less success in attracting specialist offices. Of the 28 RECs responding, 22 reported that fewer than 10 percent of the specialists in the service area have signed agreements.

When it comes to vendor selection, RECs are widening the offerings available. Among the 26 that used an RFP process, 12 said they plan to select more than eight vendors that physician offices can choose from, the survey found.

The survey also found that RECs are increasingly partnering with other federal agencies to coordinate activities and with state medical societies on recruitment.

Thirty-seven of 39 RECs said they were collaborating with other federal health programs in their service area. Twenty-nine are working with community college consortia programs, and 11 are working with beacon communities. The number of RECs working with federally qualified health centers jumped from four in 2010 to 35 in 2011. In 2010, none of the RECs were collaborating with VA or DoD facilities within their service area. In 2011, four indicated collaboration with the VA and two with DoD.

The number of RECS receiving assistance from state medical or health professional societies jumped from five in 2010 to 34 in 2011, and 26 now report using an advisory board with multiple stakeholders, up from 10 in the 2010 survey.

In a webinar about the survey results, Daniel Wilt, REC program director for the Chesapeake Regional Information System for Our Patients (CRISP), Maryland’s regional extension center, said his organization has worked very closely with the state medical society, specialty medical societies, and the regional quality improvement organization to attract physicians. CRISP, he said, now has 1,186 enrolled primary care physicians, topping its 1,000 goal. It makes its services available for free to physicians. “We are finding that 70 percent are new to EHR adoption,” Wilt said, “and 30 percent already have some form of EHR and need help reaching meaningful use.”

CRISP is partnering with 15 management services organizations (MSOs) to provide the technical assistance, guidance, outreach, and educational support.

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