With any adoption curve, the first third is always the most important, according to David Groves, executive director of the Cincinnati-based HealthBridge Tri-State Regional Extension Center (REC). His REC is successfully a third of the way in achieving its goal of 1,750 primary care physicians outfitted with EHRs. The HealthBridge Tri-State REC serves the communities of southwestern Ohio, northern and northeastern Kentucky, and southeastern Indiana. In September the organization was awarded a $13.8 million Beacon Community Cooperative Agreement Program by the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) to focus on the area’s diabetic and child asthma populations. Groves spoke with HCI Associate Editor Jennifer Prestigiacomo about sustainability issues with the REC and the health information exchange, as well as what he learned at last week’s grant awardees conference.
Healthcare Informatics: Where are you on your goal to link up 1,750 primary care physicians?
David Groves: We are very much in the recruitment phase with a lot of providers. So, we are enrolling them on a day to day basis. At this point we’re standing just short of 550, which is about 35 percent of our goal. We’ve been involved with about 50 different practices over the last few months [helping them adopt EHRs].
HCI: What kind of lessons has your organization learned from getting providers hooked up with EHRs?
Groves: Well, some of them are already EHR users, so the challenge there is to get them to be better users—get them to meaningful use. So we are doing assessments on how they’re using their systems now and what meaningful use requirements aren’t met yet. We already have a few that have reached milestone two, which is that they’re using an EHR and e-Prescribe. We’ll have many more attesting to that second milestone in January. The other type of practices we have are paper-based and never have used an EHR. Some of those are actually connected to HealthBridge for clinical results. So they have a Web portal they can use for a very light-weight EHR. Those [practices] are not even to the point of selecting their vendor yet.
HCI: How are you doing provider outreach and recruitment?
Groves: Any way we can. We had a major kick-off here in June where we invited providers to come hear about what the REC is. We had a room of about 300 people that day. We’ve been doing webinars, mailings. We won a Beacon award so we’ve been doing joint community forums where we’ve been talking about the EHR incentive program, the REC, and the Beacon program all together.
HCI: Can you tell me about about your Beacon project and which pilot activity are you most excited about?
Groves: We were one of the second wave of Beacon awardees back in September. Our two pilots are adult diabetes care and childhood asthma. We’re very excited about both of those honestly. There’s been work in this community on both of those fronts. We’ll be leveraging and extending the work that has been trail-blazed by Children’s Hospital [Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center] and they’re a member of the Beacon team. The diabetes work has been trail-blazed by the Health Improvement Collaborative [of Greater Cinnicnati] through the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation [Princeton, N.J.]. There will be two groups of practitioners that will be reporting information for quality purposes, and registry type functionality being established for that purpose. The interventions include being able to alert physicians when their patients have been admitted to an emergency or inpatient setting. So that will happen through the health information exchange. The registry functions are being able to provide very timely information about what patients are being followed, and for what conditions and what measure are met. We want all the practices that will be participating in Beacon to also be leaders moving toward meaningful use. They’ll also all be REC participants.
HCI: How is the HealthBridge HIE going?
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