The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology recently announced the country’s network of 62 Health Information Technology Regional Extension Centers (RECs) achieved one of its first major milestones—gaining commitments from 100,000 primary care providers to adopt electronic health records (EHRs).
Under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (stimulus bill), all Americans must have access to EHR by 2014. Doctors not using EHR will lose a percentage of their Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement fees starting in 2015.
The West Texas Health Information Technology Regional Extension Center (WTxHITREC) has enrolled more than 700 primary care providers. The WTxHITREC provides outreach, education and technical assistance to clinicians who serve the medically underserved, practice in settings of 10 providers or fewer or are affiliated with Federally Qualified Health Centers, critical access hospitals or rural hospitals.
EHRs allow clinicians to share more accurate, complete information and better coordinate patient care across specialists, hospitals and other health care providers, said Beverly Nixon-Lewis, D.O., WTxHITREC member and regional chief medical information officer for the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine at Amarillo.
As EHR technologies become more widely adopted by providers, patients will be able to access their own health information and become empowered partners in their medical care,” Nixon-Lewis said. “Having an EHR has provided many benefits to our practice, and has enabled us to practice better, faster and more efficiently.”
Tamara Bavousett, DNP, R.N., C-PNP, owner and practitioner of Compass Pediatrics, PLLC and WTxHITREC member, added, “Using an EHR provides a more thorough process of charting a patient’s history, physical and exams. EHR has helped me become a better health care provider.”
As part of its EHR Incentives Program, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
defined meaningful use criteria to ensure providers use a certified EHR system to:
- Exchange health information as part of coordinated care
- Report clinical quality care measures
- Utilize electronic medical services such as e-prescribing
RECs nationwide are working with providers to ensure widespread adoption of EHRs. While RECs mainly assist primary care providers, they also work with specialists. RECs leverage their broad health information technology experience to provide assistance to clinicians working in practices of various sizes and in both urban and rural settings.
“We have witnessed, firsthand, providers making significant strides in switching to an electronically-enabled practice,” said Susan McBride, Ph.D., R.N., founding director of the WTxHITREC. “The more than 700 providers who have partnered with our REC are leading the way for the West Texas medical community in meeting the meaningful use EHR criteria, ultimately leading to improved patient health care.”
With a focus on primary care providers and rural and critical access hospitals, the WTxHITREC is a core program of the F. Marie Hall Institute for Rural and Community Health.
“There is a major transformation in health care underway and we are looking to the future as we serve health care professionals throughout the 108 western counties of Texas,” said Billy Philips, vice president and director of the F. Marie Hall Institute for Rural and Community Health, and author of the grant that funds the program. “By helping them, we will bring new tools to their desktop that lead to better health outcomes and a more engaged health care consumer.”
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