Can a REC help you find the best overall EHR? (Part 1)

So you may be thinking about starting your EHR due diligence process, and you have heard about an organization called a “REC”, or Regional Extension Center.  What is a REC, and how might it help you select and implement an EHR system?

Regional Extension Centers were provided for in the HITECH Act to assist certain medical providers in selecting and implementing EHR systems in medical practices and hospitals.  Their efforts are concentrated in certain sectors, including FQHCs and other “Priority Primary Care Providers”, groups of 10 or fewer PCP’s who also provide access for underserved patient populations.  The ONC has now awarded grants to 60 organizations covering most geographic areas of the country.  Many of them are academic institutions associated with community organizations,  state organizations working on state health IT plans, private organizations working in health quality and others.

RECs receive funding equal to 90% of their budgets for the first two years, but then are expected to generate at least 90% of their budgets from other sources – including membership fees from providers.

RECs are tasked with providing services to the target provider populations to “jump start” the process of selecting and implementing EHR systems – and helping providers achieve “meaningful use” criteria.

Their services to providers include:

  • Outreach & Enrollment
  • Training and Education
  • Readiness and Workflow Assessment
  • Assistance with Vendor Selection
  • Project Planning
  • Project Monitoring/Management
  • Application Training
  • Workflow Redesign
  • System Customization
  • Infrastructure Development
  • Interface Development
  • EHR Meaningful Use Reporting

Quite an impressive list – and services most providers could benefit from!  So ask your EHR consultant about the benefits of signing up with the local REC.

In Part II, I’ll discuss the benefits of signing up, who is not eligible for REC services, and why you may want a consultant or other assistance to select and implement an EHR system in your office.

When you need proven expertise and performance

Jim Hook, MPH

Mr. James D. Hook has over 30 years of healthcare executive management and consulting experience in medical groups, hospitals, IPA’s, MSO’s, and other healthcare organizations.

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4 thoughts on “Can a REC help you find the best overall EHR? (Part 1)

  1. John, an FQHC is a Federally Qualified Health Center, a provider category for outpatient clinics that typically cater to underserved populations, and which are eligible for federal grants and special reimbursement.

    The ONC is the Office of National Coordinator, responsible for many of the government initiatives dedicated to implementing the HITECH Act.

  2. Very interesting discussion. I truly think that the points discussed out here regd. the REC’s are going to be point of contention looking ahead, towards a successful EMR deployment.
    On the issue of REC’s competing against each other, I feel this will result in a healthy competition, if they don’t get biased for a particular EHR vendor. I believe these REC’s should set their own unique business model, as discussed above within the guidelines set-forth in the HITECH act.
    This would result in each REC having a set of vendors with similar offering , yet maintaining their own unique selling point.
    Each EHR vendor should have their own interpretation of HITECH act, using which the REC’s can quote or compete for the jobs.

    Regarding the grants given, I believe the staggered form of funding does solve most of the confusion.

    Some of the other useful resources on this topic:
    REC’s putting EHR’s to meaningful use
    Certification criteria for EHR

  3. I don’t think we will see RECs competing with eachother. They all have fairly well defined geographic boundaries, either entire states or portions thereof. There will be a wide variety of business models, as RECs figure out how to survive on less government funding after the first two years. The ONC has said they expect some RECs will fail – although they haven’t addressed who will pick up the slack in a give area when that happens!