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Indiana’s Regional Extension Centers are now open and waiting to assist you
e-Reports, June 1, 2010
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With federal funds, the state’s two Regional Extension Centers (RECs) can help you adopt or improve an Electronic Health Records system.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) is funding a REC at Purdue University for Indiana, as well as the HealthBridge Tri-State REC for 19 counties in southeastern Indiana (plus parts of Ohio and Kentucky). At a time when 30 percent of all electronic health record (EHR) implementations fail, the RECs will provide consulting and solutions to help medical practices and their patients realize the promise of EHR.

“We are taking initial calls now and are already meeting with small practices,” said Monica Arrowsmith, director of the REC at Purdue.

Todd Rowland, M.D., executive director of HealthLinc, a HealthBridge partner, said “Achieving federal incentives for meaningful use will take time, so it is important to get started.” HealthBridge has several hundred practices already committed. 

Here are answers to some questions about RECs as they open for your business.

What exactly is a REC?

Across the country, these centers will serve defined geographic areas to support at least 100,000 primary care physicians and providers (small practices and those serving safety-net populations) to achieve meaningful use of EHRs for nationwide health information exchange.

What can a REC do for me – and what can’t it do?

RECs cannot give you money to purchase an EHR, software or hardware. Also, you can receive federal incentive dollars only if you achieve all 25 meaningful use criteria by specified deadlines.

However, the RECs can help you maximize available funding through direct, on-site support so you can:

  • Select the certified EHR product that best meets your needs
  • Enhance and expand your use of an existing EHR
  • Implement an EHR within federal timelines
  • Enhance workflow, maximizing your system to improve quality of care
  • Avoid common mistakes and check all the boxes to qualify for incentives
  • Comply with legal, regulatory, professional and ethical requirements to protect privacy and security of patient information

Why should I have an EHR system?

While there is little consistent evidence EHRs improve quality or cost, the real promise of EHRs is:

  • Practice operations will be more efficient.
  • Patient records will be accessible to you anywhere, anytime.
  • Medical errors and redundant costs will be reduced.
  • Integration of evidence into care practices will be accelerated.

Should my patient referral patterns determine which REC I use?

You should not alter your referral patterns in any way for EHRs or RECs because by 2012, all health information exchanges in the state (currently five) must be able to exchange data with each other. So, no matter where you refer patients, their medical records should be accessible.

See the HealthBridge 19-county target area in the map here. The REC at Purdue can assist any practice in the state.

What do I need to do to get started?

Find information about the Purdue REC here; you’ll need to complete a short survey to get started.

Find information about HealthBridge Tri-State here; an “Interest Form” is available on the site.

Do I have to pay for REC services?

The RECs charge some fees, but they cost far less than other consultants since RECs are non-profit and supported by federal grants. The Tri-State REC does not charge to assist practices already using EHRs attain meaningful use.

I’m a specialist; can the RECs help me?

RECs will provide education to all health care providers about health information technology, EHR and information exchange, as well as process redesign, workforce support and quality improvement.

Will the RECs direct me to certain vendors?

RECs are moving through a vetting process right now to develop a list of preferred vendors that will enable them to offer group discounts on proven, certified products. Vendors are responding to a Request for Proposal issued in early May.

What if I already have an EHR, can a REC help me?

Yes, the REC will assist you to reach the maximum benefit from your EHR system.

What amount am I eligible to receive for reaching meaningful use?

Each eligible professional may qualify for incentives up to $44,000 for Medicare or up to $63,750 for Medicaid (not both) over the next few years for meeting meaningful use of health information technology.

For background on RECs, see the March 8 and April 5 issues of ISMA Reports on the ISMA website.

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