- In 2014, almost all hospitals and 75% of doctors reported using certified EHRs, according to a new report by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.
- Helping to advance EHR adoption is ONC’s Regional Extension Center (REC) Program, which funds cooperative agreements with organizations to provide on-the-ground support to assist physicians transitioning to EHRs.
- RECs help providers select and implement certified health IT products, meet federal meaningful use (MU) requirements and assist workflow design, among other services.
Weighing in at 124 pages, the report delivers on REC analysis since its implementation. ONC awarded 62 cooperative agreements to 60 local organizations to establish and operate RECs. More than $700 million was invested in the REC program, the report noted.
Sixty-eight percent of eligible professionals who received incentive payments under Stage 1 of the MU program were assisted by RECs, versus only 12% of nonparticipants. “The current rate of receiving incentives among REC participants compared with nonparticipants is notable given some EHR systems’ limited capacity to achieve meaningful use as of only three years ago,” the report stated.
The study also found REC participants were more likely than nonparticipants to routinely use six EHR features. Of those, five were key goals for Stage 1 MU and one was a menu objective. More than 90% of survey respondents used their EHRs to record patient demographic information, problem lists, vital signs, smoking status, clinical notes, and prescriptions.
"In short, the hard work of thousands of people across the country engaging in and with RECs has contributed to a remarkable increase in the national health IT adoption rate among physicians, nurse practitioners and others," wrote Thomas A. Mason, ONC CMO, on a Health IT Buzz Blog post.
While the major challenges cited for EHR adoption were workflow and staff training, it wasn’t clear whether the REC program helped to ease these issues.
The findings build on a 2012 General Accountability Office report, which found Medicare doctors who work with RECs are twice as likely to receive incentives.
RECs are authorized and funded under the HITECH Act of 2009. The program supports providers in solo and small primary care practices, those in practices serving a large proportion of Medicaid and uninsured patients, community health centers, rural health clinics and critical access hospitals.
The American Institutes of Research conducted the analysis for ONC.