A look at the work of QIOs suggests that they are a step ahead in their thinking of what such assistance entails. And Health IT Strategist readers seem to agree. While any established health IT group might qualify to receive the designation, 95% of HITS readers, at deadline, said that they believe the CMS-contracted QIOs should head the program. That response is to the liking of officials involved in the program, who say QIOs are meeting the standards of their contracts under the 9th Statement of Work to help providers with various quality initiatives.
Still, others are not convinced yet that the regional extension center program has been fleshed out enough to determine anything like leadership, funding needs and operations. There is still a lot of information in the federal notice to be digested, according to Todd Rowland, a physician who is executive director of HealthLINC, an HIE organization in Bloomington, Ind. HealthLINC is one of 16 HIE organizations to participate in the pilot national health information network initiative.
Much of what is described in the notice for extension centers is what HIEs do today, Rowland said. The HIEs are close to the providers they work with, and establish relationships with the providers to educate them on IT needs and help them choose the right type of technology. QIOs are well-respected organizations, but they are only a piece of the strategy, he said. The key is to find groups that can provide deep knowledge of physician office needs, mentoring, training and workflow development for these extension centers to work. I think they need to partner, he said.
The outline for extension centers seems premature, said Michael Bryant, president and CEO of Methodist Health Services Corp., Peoria, Ill. The centers themselves might help small practices that arent equipped or prepared to embark on a technology implementation project alone, but where the talent will come from to staff those centers remains a question, he said. Its great to have these centers, but where are you going to get these experts? IT consultants and vendors might interpret the federal notice to mean that regional centers will take their place, he added.
Methodist, which spends between $10 million and $12 million a year on IT, has taken eight years to implement a full computerized physician order-entry system with the help of its vendor, consultants and internal support. Its 28 physician practice affiliates are all integrated into the system. Its been a very deliberate, thoughtful process, Bryant said.