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Georgia REC Closing in on Meaningful Use Goals

April 7, 2016
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Georgia's only federally endorsed health IT regional extension center (REC) has announced that it is closing on its goal of getting all the eligible primary care providers, critical access and rural hospitals in the state to attest to Stage 1 of meaningful use.

In 2009, RECs were created by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) to help providers with electronic health record (EHR) adoption. That year, the Georgia Health Information Technology Extension Center (GA-HITEC), part of the National Center for Primary Care at Morehouse School of Medicine Morehouse School of Medicine, was awarded a $21M cooperative agreement from the federal agency to become the only regional extension center in Georgia to provide on-the-ground technical assistance for individual and small medical practices, those serving underserved communities, or lacking resources to implement and maintain EHRs.

GA-HITEC ranks fifth nationally amongst ONC’s nationwide network of 62 RECs in the number of eligible providers achieving meaningful use, according to a press release from the healthcare organization. What’s more, through this work in the REC program, GA-HITEC has assisted members in receiving over $80 million in incentive payments through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' (CMS) EHR incentive programs. The GA-HITEC team specializes in working with provider members, primarily comprised of small physician practices, and critical access and rural hospitals.

As such, GA-HITEC announced that it has reached 100 percent target eligible primary care providers and 89 percent of its eligible critical access and rural hospitals to have achieved meaningful use Stage 1. Working with community partners statewide, GA-HITEC has provided hands-on education and outreach to more than 4,000 eligible primary care physicians and 56 critical access and rural hospitals to implement and adopt EHR technology. Utilizing a methodical 10-Step roadmap to EHR meaningful use, GA-HITEC has provided members direct assistance on key information regarding the EHR implementation process to simplify the path to meaningful use since 2010, the organization said.

"We are proud of the work that has been accomplished over the past six years in Georgia in collaboration with our partners throughout the state to advance health IT and interoperability with the adoption and implementation of EHR technology," Carmen Hughes, executive director, GA-HITEC, said in a statement. "This growth is beneficial to both physicians in managing practice operations and also patients in improving access and quality of care."

As the national REC program is slated to sunset in late 2016, GA-HITEC said that it will continue to develop activities in support of the government’s HIT initiatives, including Stage 2 and Stage 3 of meaningful use, health information exchange (HIE), clinical practice transformation, along with other value-based reporting efforts. In 2014, GA-HITEC launched Ga Health Connect (Guich), a service-area HIE designed to provide integrative technology and clinical support platform for smaller practices, hospitals and health systems that seek a simple solution for connectivity to the Georgia Health Information Network (Gain).

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