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Primary Care Moving to Electronic Records

Over 100,000 primary care providers sign up to adopt electronic health records through their Regional Extension Centers

WASHINGTON, DC – The HHS Office for the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology announced today that more than 100,000 primary care providers are adopting certified Electronic Health Records (EHRs) to help improve their quality of care and ultimately lower health care costs. This commitment by more than one-third of all primary care providers nationwide to work with their Regional Extension Center (REC) to participate in the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Programs as a way to transition from paper records to certified EHRs, representing a major step toward broader and more meaningful use of health IT.

Designed to jump start EHR adoption, the Health Information Technology Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009, part of the Recovery Act, created a nationwide network of RECs comprised of local nonprofits, to provide guidance and resources to help eligible professionals make the transition from paper records to certified EHRs.  Eligible providers that meet meaningful use of certified EHRs criteria may be eligible for incentive payments under the Recovery Act.

The 62 RECs focus on assisting primary care providers and those providers serving traditionally medically underserved populations as they take part in the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs and meaningfully use EHRs in ways that can reduce health care costs, increase patient safety, and improve the overall quality of patient care.  These providers face challenges in EHR adoption including tight budgets, over-stretched health information technology staff, and limited broadband access.

“The RECs are playing an integral role in helping providers on the path to EHR adoption,” said Farzad Mostashari, MD, ScM, the Office of National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.  “This compelling milestone demonstrates strong interest in adoption and meaningful use among community health centers, small practices, and rural providers that can lead to improvements in health and healthcare.” 

One-half of the providers committed to making the transition to certified EHRs are in small group practices or consortia of small group practices.  The remaining providers focus on the underserved with 18 percent in community health centers, 11 percent in public hospitals, and 21 percent in other underserved settings, such as critical access hospitals, rural health clinics, and practices in medically underserved areas.

RECs serve the majority of primary care providers in small practices in rural areas.  Today’s figures include over half of the targeted 1,776 critical access and rural hospitals in 41 states and throughout Indian Country.

A complete listing of REC grant recipients and additional information about Regional Extension Centers may be found at http://www.HealthIT.hhs.gov/REC/.

For more information about how health IT can lead to safer, better, and more efficient health care, visit http://www.healthit.gov/

For information about the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs, see http://www.cms.gov/EHRIncentivePrograms.

For information about HHS Recovery Act health IT programs, see http://www.hhs.gov/recovery/announcements/by_topic.html#hit.

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