Using $688 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, HHS' Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology launched the RECs in 2010 with four-year grants ranging from $4.5 million to $29.9 million. The 62 RECs cover all 50 states and several U.S. territories. As of June 2013, they've helped more than 134,000 primary-care physicians, 83% of federally qualified health centers, and 78% of critical-access hospitals, according to a recent federal report.
Those surveyed also said they would like to see the RECs offer help not currently authorized by the recovery act. Additional health IT support is needed for skilled-nursing and long-term-care facilities, data analytics assistance and population management, survey respondents said.
“I think the neediest area is in skilled nursing,” said Deborah Brodine, president of community provider services for the Pittsburgh-based UPMC system, whose duties include overseeing all of UPMC's skilled-nursing and assisted-living programs.
Today, few skilled-nursing and long-term-care facilities have full-fledged electronic health-record systems, though many have electronic record-keeping systems for billing and admissions. “It's not really feasible for them to get over the (IT) hurdle on their own,” Brodine said.
Integration is the most important part, she said. As the healthcare industry moves to new models of care, hospitals and physicians with EHRs must be able to connect with home health and skilled- nursing providers.
“I think it would be a great investment to continue to fund the extension centers,” said Dr. Farzad Mostashari, the former ONC chief who is now a fellow at the Brookings Institution. “We would be crazy to let this slip out of our hands.”
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