Regional extension centers (RECs) are now mostly in the early stages of planning their organizations and facilitating physician adoption of electronic health records (EHRs). However, two New York RECs are frontrunners in this space and use collaboration to conquer the complexities of meaningful use.
A recent survey from the eHealth Initiative (Washington, D.C.), a non-profit whose mission is improving quality and safety in healthcare through information technology, took the temperature of today's regional extension centers (RECs), and found the climate to be rather tepid. Not only were many of the RECs still in early planning phases, but progress was slow to transition letters of commitment by providers into signed contracts. The picture, however, is not altogether bleak. Two outliers in New York are leading the pack, with a deep sense of collaboration and a focused purpose key in their success.
A NEW YORK ‘STATE’ OF REC
First, a little background on the 60 RECs across the country: Funded under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, RECs have a mandate to support 100,000 primary care physicians in moving toward electronic health record (EHR) adoption, and ultimately meaningful use, of those EHRs. It is expected that these RECs will all be fully functional by mid-2010 and largely self-sustaining by the middle of 2012. Every two years, a Health and Human Services-appointed panel of private experts will evaluate the RECs' performance to judge if continued support is merited.
The number of RECs to be developed in any particular state is naturally determined by population. For reference, California and Texas have three and four RECs, respectively. The Empire State in comparison only has two regional extension centers: the NYC Regional Electronic Adoption Center for Health (REACH), a collaboration between the New York City Health Department and the Fund for Public Health in New York, which covers New York City; and the New York eHealth Collaborative (NYeC), a public-private partnership with the New York State Department of Health and other entities, which covers the rest of New York State.